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Man who left neighbour ‘for dead’ after crash jailed



Man who left neighbour ‘for dead’ after crash jailed

A man who left a neighbour “for dead in a ditch” after crashing into him on a country road while driving after drinking around 20 pints has been jailed for five years.

William Maher, 54, of Derrycrib, Donadea, Co Kildare, pleaded guilty at a sitting of Naas Circuit Criminal Court to a charge of dangerous driving causing serious harm to a pedestrian, Paul Gill at Staplestown, Co Kildare on 3 April 2022.

The court heard both men had been attending a social function at the clubhouse of St Kevin’s GAA club in Staplestown earlier that evening.

Evidence was heard that Mr Gill had limited recollection of being struck by a vehicle and only remembered waking up in hospital.

He spent ten days on a ventilator in an intensive care unit before spending around two further months in hospitals in Tallaght and Peamount recovering from his injuries.

Judge Martina Baxter noted Mr Gill suffered multiple fractures and traumatic brain injury after being struck by a vehicle driven by Maher.

He also suffered damage to his hearing and sight and requires the use of a stick for balance when he walks.

The judge said medical reports showed the victim also suffered from poor sleep and difficulties with his memory and was unlikely to make a full recovery.

She observed that Maher had actually returned home with his partner, Liz Fitzharris, from the function but had decided to return to the GAA club to pick up her daughter.

The collision with Mr Gill occurred as the accused was driving back towards the clubhouse with damage to the vehicle showing that the injured man had been hit with “some force”.

Evidence was heard that blood was found on the door frame of the vehicle.

The accused subsequently admitted he had drunk around 20 pints between midday and midnight before the crash.

Judge Baxter said it was the “irony of ironies” that his partner’s daughter was the person who had found Mr Gill injured in a ditch.

She acknowledged that Ms Fitzharris had noticed the damage to her SUV the following morning and insisted that Maher should go to gardaí.

The judge accepted that the accused had demonstrated genuine remorse for his actions which she said had alcohol as their main contributory factor.

She observed that the local community in Staplestown, where both men lived, was shocked by the incident and that Maher was “slightly ostracised” as a result of what happened.

The court heard Mr Gill has also initiated civil proceedings over the collision.

In a victim impact statement, he outlined how his life had been completely changed by the crash where he had been “left for dead in a ditch on one of the coldest nights of the year”.

Mr Gill described how he could no longer work and how his 80-year-old mother had become his carer, rather than the other way round, as he was in need of constant assistance.

He said he now rarely left his home unless to go to hospital for treatment.

Mr Gill recounted how he used to cycle everywhere as he had never learnt to drive but now could not see himself cycling again “in the future or at all”.

The court heard Maher has two previous convictions for road traffic offences.

Judge Baxter described what happened as “a horrific incident” with the accused having been “very callous” for leaving the scene of the collision.

She noted Maher had demonstrated limited insight during his first garda interview about how his driving ability was impaired and seemed to have little appreciation of the dangerous situation in which he had put himself.

The judge contrasted the accused’s situation with Mr Gill, whom she noted had also consumed alcohol at the GAA club, but who had chosen to walk home.

She noted there was evidence that Maher had stopped his vehicle and stepped in his victim’s blood before leaving the scene and Mr Gill with life-threatening injuries.

Judge Baxter said he must also have driven past the injured man in the ditch again on his way home the second time.

Leaving his victim seriously injured in a ditch in the middle of the night was “a despicable act”, she added.

The judge praised the accused’s partner for going to the gardaí about the incident.

Sentencing Maher to five and a half years in prison, Judge Baxter said she would suspend the final six months on condition he places himself under the supervision of the Probation Service for a period of six months on his release from custody.

She also disqualified Maher from driving for a period of six years starting from the date of his release from prison.

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