Driver who left trail of destruction behind him jailed for 10 months

November 28, 2023

A Donegal man has been sent to prison over his involvement in three separate road traffic collisions.

Joseph Sweeney appeared before Letterkenny District Court on Monday where he faced 23 charges.

The 53-year-old, with an address at Father Arnold Terrace, Manorcunningham, was sentenced to a total of 10 months in prison.

Sweeney was also put off the road for six years and fined €400. The final three months of the prison sentence was suspended for a period of 12 months.

Details of the incidents were given to the court by Sergeant Jim Collins.

On September 8, 2016, at Kincraigy, Manorcunningham, a Ford Focus being driven by Sweeney lost control and collided with the driver’s side of another vehicle. The other motorist was left facing a €5,000 repair bill. Sweeney left the scene but was later identified as having been the driver of the Focus.

On January 12, 2019, Gardai observed a vehicle failing to indicate at Port Road, Letterkenny at 2.52am. The blue lights were activated and the vehicle was stopped. Officers detected a strong smell of alcohol and Sweeney failed a subsequent breath test, which showed 70 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath – over three times the legal limit.

Gardai attended a three-car collision at 8.40pm on February 20, 2021. A white Renault Kangoo van collided with a parked vehicle with such force that it collided into another car. Sergeant Collins said that ‘substantial damage’ was caused.

While Sweeney made admissions ‘he couldn’t remember what actually happened’, the court heard.

On September 25, 2021, a black Audi A4 collided with a vehicle at Trentagh, St Johnston. The car lost control, ‘barrelled sideways’ and collided with another vehicle, damaging the door. Sweeney left the scene, but later made admissions when spoken to by Gardai.

The court was informed that Sweeney has nine previous convictions, including for dangerous driving, drink-driving and driving without insurance. He has previously been disqualified from driving by the court.

Mr Donough Cleary, solicitor for Sweeney, said that the previous matters remain under appeal.

“He is contrite and he has apologised and made admissions,” Mr Cleary said. “He is aware of the risk that he is at.”

Judge Éiteáin Cunningham said that she considered the matter ‘very serious’ and all the previous convictions were ‘quite relevant’.

Five charges, relating to the production of documents, were struck out.

The Probation Service deemed Sweeney of a ‘moderate risk’ of reoffending’ and said the matters before her were ‘of a most serious nature’.

For driving without insurance on September 9, 2016, Sweeney was convicted and sentenced to four months in prison. Judge Cunningham banned Sweeney from driving for six years and marked other charges as taken into consideration.

For drink-driving on January 12, 2019, Sweeney was fined €200 and disqualified for six years.

On a charge of dangerous driving from February 20, 2021, Sweeney was sentenced to three months in prison with the sentence to run consecutively. He was also disqualified from driving for six years. On a charge of driving without insurance on the same date, Sweeney was fined €200 and put off the road for six years. Other charges were marked as taken into consideration by the Judge.

Sweeney was sentenced to three months in prison for driving without insurance on September 25, 2021 and issued with a six-year driving ban. Other charges were marked as taken into consideration.

The driving disqualifications are to run concurrently.

Recognisance in the event of an appeal was set at Sweeney’s own bond of €500, with €250 to be lodged.

The last three months of the total sentence of 10 months in prison were suspended with Judge Cunningham directing that Sweeney engage with the Probation Service and comply with all recommendations. All fines imposed are payable forthwith.