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Boyle man jailed for nine months after fatal crash that killed retired priest

Mar 1, 2021 15:03 By Shannonside News
Boyle man jailed for nine months after fatal crash that killed retired priest Boyle man jailed for nine months after fatal crash that killed retired priest
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A Roscommon man has been sentenced to nine months in jail for killing a retired priest in a road crash near Drumboylan almost three years

A Roscommon man has been sentenced to nine months in jail for killing a retired priest in a road crash near Drumboylan almost three years ago.

Mark Battles, of Garrow, Boyle, pleaded guilty to careless driving causing the death of Fr Michael Guckian on May 11th 2019.

Roscommon Circuit Court heard that Fr Guckian was walking back from Drumboylan Community centre to a relatives' house at around 11pm when the fatal crash occurred.

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A VW Passat, driven by Mr Battles, was on its way to a party in Leitrim Village, when it was in collision with the 80-year-old priest as he tried to cross the road.

After the crash, Battles and his two passengers got out of the car and realised they had stuck someone, but the court heard the 22-year-old panicked, telling them "we have to go" and then left the scene while the two men remained.

A short while later Battles' had a friend bring him to Boyle Garda station, where he was called by Gardai who had been trying to locate him and apologised for leaving the scene.

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Around midnight he was met by Sgt Maura McGarry at the station who carried out a breathalyser test which he initially failed, but a later test showed him to be below the legal drink-driving limit.

The court heard that CCTV footage showed Battles had four pints of beer in a pub before getting into the car, but he made no admissions regarding his alcohol intake in Garda interviews.

Fr Guckian was towards the centre of the road when the crash occurred, but was not wearing any bright or reflective clothes on the night. The road's speed limit was 80 km/h and a report showed that the car was likely travelling between 61 and 74 km/h at the time of the crash.

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Battles had two previous convictions - one for no insurance and one driving a defective vehicle which occurred just a month before the fatal collision.

His defence barrister claimed there was no evidence that the drinking had impaired his driving and that excessive speed was not a factor in the crash.

It was also suggested that the Passat had been travelling behind a jeep which had not moved or indicated to Battles that there was anyone on the road up ahead before the crash.

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A victim impact statement, read by a nephew of Fr Guckian described him a man who loved his family, the Irish language and GAA, and there was huge feeling of grief and devastation at his sudden death.

He also explained that they had no feelings or anger or resentment at his loss as Fr Guckian felt these were redundant emotions.

Battles also apologised in court, explaining that he was truly sorry and that if he could turn back the clock he would .

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His father Padraig also gave evidence, claiming that his son was a great help around their farm, and that if he could trade places with Mark, or Fr Guckian, he would.

Judge Francis Comerford said battles showed a lack of care and attention, and should have been able to see the 80-year-old crossing the road.

He accepted that the 22-year-old was in shock after the collision, but told the court that it was important the message would go out that you cannot leave the scene of a crash.

He also suggested that alcohol may have played some role in the crash, but was not a decisive factor.

He imposed a nine month jail term for careless driving causing death, as well as an 18 month sentence for failure to remain at the scene, with nine months suspended.

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