A man who crashed into and killed a farmer while driving at speed during an argument with his girlfriend has been jailed for five and a half years and banned from driving for 30 years.
Henry Kiely, aged 24, was already banned from driving for seven years when he killed father-of-two Francie Browne from Listillion, outside Letterkenny on September 6th, 2018.
The then 22-year-old ploughed into Mr Browne who was going to do some work in his yard in his Toyota Hilux jeep just before 8pm at Listillion on the outskirts of Letterkenny.
Kiely fled the scene leaving both Mr Browne, aged 55, dying on the roadside and his girlfriend trapped in the black Maza car with serious leg injuries.
He was captured by arriving Gardai hiding in some bushes.
Mr Browne, a much-loved and well-known local farmer, died the following days from his injuries at Letterkenny University Hospital surrounded by his family.
Kiely, now aged 24 and from Killbarrow Cottage, Old Mallow Road in Cork, was arrested and was found not to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Details of the incident and the moments leading up to the crash were revealed in court.
Statements from a number of witnesses revealed how Kiely had been driving his black Mazda at speed in and out of traffic and overtaking on continuous white lines.
The court heard how the accused has 44 previous convictions and had been serving a seven-year driving ban for another spate of dangerous driving charges.
Of these 11 were for dangerous driving and he had 22 convictions for road traffic matters in general.
Heartbreaking victim impact statements were read out in court on behalf of Mr Browne’s widow Kathleen, as well as his daughter Hayley, son Conor and brother Liam.
His wife Kathleen told how Francie was her best friend and companion and how she still expects him to walk back through the door.
Both his children described their late father as the happiest person they knew and how they aspired to grow up like him.
His brother Liam, who rushed to the scene of the accident on the day, described how he held his brother’s hand as he passed away.
He said he watched as Kiely was arrested at the scene and said he showed no sign of remorse adding that he walked away with “his shoulders back and his chest out.”
Kiely was taken to Letterkenny Garda station and blood tests showed that he was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
A forensic examination of the scene showed brake-marks at the scene showed that Kiely would have had to have been traveling at more than 100kph or he would have been able to stop in time before hitting Mr Browne’s jeep.
Barrister for Kiely, Mr Shane Costello, said his client fled out of utter panic.
However, he said his client is “absolutely aware of the trauma he has perpetrated on the Browne family” and he wanted to say that he is deeply sorry.
A letter written by the accused in which he said he knew that no words could bring back Mr Browne and in which he again apologised for his actions were also read out in court.
Reference letters from a local priest in Cork, as well as a builders/providers, were also produced in court on behalf of Kiely who was accompanied to court by his parents.
“If he could take it all back he would so in a heartbeat,” added Mr Costello.
Judge John Aylmer said the case was one of “furious driving in its truest sense.”
He said the most aggravating factors in the case apart from the death of Mr Browne and the injuries to his girlfriend was the fact that he was driving while disqualified having previously served six months in jail for driving offences.
He said that further aggravating factors is the fact that he fled the scene leaving Mr Browne dying on the road and also his injured girlfriend and that he was driving without tax, insurance or a license.
He said he placed the incident at the upper end of scale with a high degree of culpability and one which merited a sentence of eight years before mitigation.
He said the mitigating factors included Kiely’s early plea, the references presented to court as well as his genuine remorse and that his sense of guilt has obviously taken a heavy toll on the accused.
He said this was evident in two attempted suicide attempts and that at the time of the crash he was labouring under some immaturity.
Because of these mitigating factors, he reduced the sentence to one of six and a half years and with the need to encourage Kiely he also suspended the final 12 months of this sentence meaning he will have to serve a total of five and a half years.
He also banned the accused from holding a driving license for 30 years which Judge Aylmer said the court considers “a significant penalty in itself.”
A number of members of Mr Browne’s immediate and extended family were in court for the sentence.