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Limerick TD calls for mandatory sentences in dangerous driving cases

A LIMERICK TD has called for the introduction of mandatory sentences for cases involving dangerous driving.

A LIMERICK TD has called for the introduction of mandatory sentences for cases involving dangerous driving.

Deputy Niall Collins made his comments in the Dail after he criticised the sentence handed down on a County Limerick man convicted of dangerous driving causing the death of a couple almost four years ago.

In January, Michael Harty, aged 30, of St Mary’s Terrace, Askeaton was found guilty following an eight-day trial at Limerick Circuit Court.

Harty, who is expected to appeal the conviction, was sentenced to five years imprisonment.

Maurice Hartnett, 61, and his wife Margaret, 59, who were from Ballingarry died following a head-on collision between Rathkeale and Askeaton on July 29, 2009.

Speaking during a Topical Issues debate, Deputy Collins said the case was one of a number of recent cases where the sentence imposed was “substantially less than the maximum level allowed by the law, despite the gravity of the case involved”.

Referring to the case of Michael Harty, Deputy Collins, said he did not believe justice had been served in the case.

“While the maximum sentence in these cases is ten years, with remission he will probably serve only four. The six children of the victims are left without their parents and the community they lived in has been robbed of their contribution. The convicted drunk driver will lose only four years of his life,” he said adding that there appeared to have been a number of aggravating factors in the case.

“The convicted man had a record of endangering the community, with a number of previous convictions for dangerous driving and speeding. He pleaded not guilty but was driving on the wrong side of the road giving the victims no chance to avoid him,” he said.

In reply to the Limerick TD, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said he did not propose introducing mandatory sentences for dangerous driving cases.

“Discretion must remain with the judge hearing the case so that when convicting a person and applying sanctions, recognition can be given to all the associated circumstances and a determination made that reflects those circumstances,” he told the Dail.

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