15 Aug 2022

Lengthy prison sentence for Limerick woman who used car as weapon to drive at pedestrians

Court told Limerick woman used car as ‘weapon to cause serious injuries’

Gardai at the scene of last October's incident | PICTURE: Brendan Gleeson

A YOUNG woman who "used her car as a weapon" and deliberately drove at three people in Limerick's Market Quarter has been jailed for seven years.

Chloe McNamara, aged 21, of Sarsfield Gardens, Moyross had pleaded guilty to a number of offences including endangerment, assault causing serious harm and leaving the scene of a road collision.

Imposing sentence on Tuesday, Judge Tom O'Donnell said the victims were "struck with considerable force" and were "given no chance" to take evasive action. "They were completely defenceless," he said,

Limerick Circuit Court heard Ms McNamara was on bail at the time of the hit and run which occurred in the Cornmarket Row area of the city in the early hours of October 10, 2021.

During a sentencing hearing, barrister John O’Sullivan, instructed by state solicitor Padraig Mawe, said a man, his wife and her sister had been on a night out and had just left a fast food restaurant.

“The accused was driving a red Audi. It was noticed she had been driving erratically. She accelerated in the direction of the three pedestrians. They had their backs towards her. They were projected upwards and forwards. The car’s brake lights did not illuminate until afterwards,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

Garda Patricia McCormack said the vehicle, which had been bought by McNamara for €500 a short time earlier, did not stay at the scene and was located 25 minutes later at Hartigan Villas, Moyross.

There was blood on the windscreen.

After Ms McNamara was arrested, Garda McCormack said she admitted that she had driven at the people deliberately.

“She said the man ‘battered’ her windscreen. There is no evidence of this. She said she had consumed two glasses of vodka and a few joints,” said Garda McCormack.

The garda said Ms McNamara also admitted speeding up before she hit the pedestrians.

“She said: ‘I was revving the car. I just wanted to get them out of the way. I was just vexed. I didn’t see a girl. Tell that girl I’m sorry. I meant to hit your man, not all of them. It is horrible. I was drunk. I just wanted to hurt him for battering my car. I didn’t mean to hit him that hard’,” recounted Garda McCormack.

Imposing sentence, Judge O'Donnell said the victim impact statements, which were read out in court, were "clear and succinct" and that it was clear there has been a physical, emotional, psychological and financial impact.

"They sustained serious and significant injuries," he said, noting the contents of medical reports which were submitted to the court.

The judge agreed with Mr O'Sullivan's assertion that Ms McNamara had "used her vehicle as a weapon" and he noted the Director of Public Prosecutions is of the view that the offence was at the higher end of the scale.

"Her actions on the night were pre-meditated and reckless," he commented, adding that he had a duty to consider all matters in an effort to reach an "appropriate and proportionate sentence in all the circumstances."

The judge said Ms McNamara's admissions and guilty plea were mitigating factors but that she bore a "high degree of culpability" for what happened.

"Her actions were chilling to say the least," he said, adding that her temper is a concern for the court.

The judge noted Ms McNamara's personal circumstances including that her father was murdered was she was a child. He also noted that she is engaging with the authorities at Limerick Prison.

Prison sentences totalling nine years were imposed with the final two years suspended.

The 21-year-old, who has a number of previous convictions, was also disqualified from driving for 15 years.

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