Garda was seriously injured in West Limerick crash, court hears

A NEWCASTLE West woman has pleaded guilty to causing a car crash in which a garda was seriously injured and had to remain off work for a year.

A NEWCASTLE West woman has pleaded guilty to causing a car crash in which a garda was seriously injured and had to remain off work for a year.

Amanda O’Brien, aged 28, of Oakpark, Newcastle West collided with a garda patrol car after she pulled out on to the main N21 at Lacey’s Cross, Gortboy, Newcastle West on June 22, 2012. She pleaded guilty to a charge of dangerous driving at the local court this Tuesday.

State solicitor Aidan Judge, prosecuting, said that at 2pm on the date in question O’Brien, who was driving a jeep, exited the cross and turned right on to the main N21 “without stopping”, and collided with a garda patrol car being driven by Garda Graham O’Connor, which was heading from Newcastle West towards Limerick.

As a result of the collision, the garda car spun and came to a stop on the other side of the road. Emergency services attended the scene and Garda O’Connor had to be cut from the vehicle, the court heard. Driving conditions were described as bright and dry at the time.

Mr Judge said that as a result of the crash Garda O’Connor sustained injuries that kept him out of work “for the better part of a year”. However he has since returned to duty.

Both O’Brien’s jeep and the garda car were subsequently inspected and were found to have no mechanical problems prior to the crash.

Mr Judge told the court that the case against O’Brien had previously been adjourned for fresh consultations with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), regarding the possibility the charge being increased to the more serious offence of dangerous driving causing serious injury, given the extent of Garda O’Connor’s injuries. However Mr Judge said that the DPP had decided not to alter the charge, and directed that the case be dealt with in the district court.

Solicitor Andrew D’Arcy, defending, said that O’Brien has become “a nervous wreck since this happened” and was pleading guilty to the charge as early as possible as “she just wants to get on with her life”. The court heard that O’Brien has a five-year-old child, lives at home with her parents and is in receipt of lone parent’s allowance.

Mr D’Arcy said that just before the crash occurred O’Brien was stopped at the junction and saw a vehicle with “a high body” indicate to turn off the main road. Believing that the way was clear, she then “proceeded to turn out” but did not see the garda car approaching, as it was concealed by the other vehicle. “She pulled out when she should have waited,” Mr D’Arcy said.

The court heard that there were “no aggravating factors” such as speed, alcohol or drugs involved. “It was a misjudgment by Ms O’Brien”, Mr D’Arcy stressed.

The accused, who has no previous convictions, “has been emotionally very upset as a result of this accident” and has received mental health treatment at Churchtown day clinic in Newcastle West since the accident. Mr D’Arcy said that she has suffered from “emotional trauma” while the dangerous driving prosecution has been “hanging over her”.

Judge Mary Larkin said “an error of judgement on the road can have very serious consequences”, and handed O’Brien a mandatory two-year driving ban. O’Brien was also fined €100, with three months to pay.

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