Woman jailed for drunk driving incident that hurt garda

A 30-year-old who drove her car while drunk and on drugs and crashed into a garda who was out cycling causing him catastrophic and life-changing injuries, has been handed a seven-year jail sentence and disqualified from driving for ten years.

Niamh McDonnell, from Gortskagh, Castlemahon in Co Limerick and who was a child care worker at Dromcolliher Co Limerick, drove her car home on the evening of 30 June last year, after consuming five vodkas and five other shots of alcohol and after smoking a cannabis joint in the morning before going to work.

Despite being offered a lift, she decided to drive and on her way home she struck Inspector Niall Flood and he ended up critically injured in a ditch of water at the side of the road.

He had been out cycling that evening on a straight stretch of road near the village of Dromicolliher, and McDonnell’s car struck him at steed before he ended up in the ditch.

McDonnell, who is a mother of two young children, did not remain at the scene and only for the quick action of a number of witnesses, it’s possible Mr Flood would have died.

He was airlifted to a hospital in Cork and ended up spending 8 months being treated in hospitals in Cork and Limerick.

McDonnell failed to stay at the scene or offer help to Mr Flood and it was not until she arrived home that the severed foot of Mr Flood was found near the headlamp in the front grille of her car, by her partner, who immediately contacted the gardaí.

She pleaded guilty to a series of charges of dangerous driving causing serious harm, drunk driving, drug driving and failing to remain at the scene of an accident and failing to offer assistance.

The court heard that Mr Flood who was based at Newcastlewest Garda Station and was an experienced cyclist had suffered catastrophic injuries, which would cause him and his family ongoing physical, psychological and emotional challenges for the rest of his life.

But he was determined to continue his work as a garda.

Sentencing her, Judge Tom O’Donnell said the charges arose from an extremely serious series of events on the evening of 30 June last year in which the accused McDonnell attracted a high level of culpability in that she decided to get behind the wheel of her car while two and a half times over the legal drink driving limit, she also had drugs in her system, she was driving at speed and had failed to stop and offer assistance.

He did take into account her guilty plea, her genuine remorse, and the fact she had no previous convictions.

He imposed a seven-year sentence, suspending the final two years.

He also disqualified McDonnell from driving for ten years.

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