By Liam Heylin
The teenager who knocked down a two-year-old boy outside his house and then drove off leaving him seriously injured was jailed for four years.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said that even though the accused does not turn 18 until January 2020 he should be identified. He is Nathan O’Reilly of 32 Ballinure Avenue, Mahon, Cork.
He was sentenced to six years in custody with the last two years of that sentence suspended.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said during the sentencing hearing: “The biggest problem here is why he did not stop.”
The injured party is not identified because of provisions of the Children’s Act.
The child was outside his house when Nathan O’Reilly drove past striking the little boy and causing him a serious head injury and then leaving him lying on the ground.
O’Reilly was sentenced on a charge of dangerous driving causing serious harm and he was also banned from driving for 20 years. He also pleaded guilty to failing to remain at the scene and related charges arising out of the incident on the afternoon of March 25.
The accused has been in Oberstown for the past few months after pleading guilty to the charges.
‘Almost bordering on inhumane’
The judge noted today: “The first thing that strikes me there was a dangerous recklessness buying a car on the internet, driving it without insurance or any qualifications.
“On the day there was the revving, the speed, the burning of tyres and remember, this a limited suburban area that he knew.
“He sped around with no ability to control it. He strikes an infant on the road. The lever of dangerousness is very high. To leave the scene of the accident, it is almost bordering on inhumane.
“I will incorporate leaving the scene as an aggravating factor in the dangerous driving.
“Anyone in the car knew they had done serious damage to the child on the road… but they left the scene.
“I have a number of letters from him. I don’t expect the mother (of the injured toddler) or anyone related to him to understand but the letters are different to what I normally get. Usually they are written by someone else (in prison) for cigarettes or something and they are worthless.
“But these are from a child or young person coming to terms with what he did. Bewildered, he does not know where he is or how he is going to get out of it.”
Garda Darren Reid testified that the teenager had bought the car online the previous day for €100. He had three passengers in the car with him the time of the collision.
Garda Reid said that the car parked in a housing estate could be heard revving loudly for about three minutes, attracting the attention of residents in surrounding houses.
When the third passenger got into the car he began to drive out of the estate at excessive speed, with witnesses hearing the sound of spinning tyres. The guard said the car took off at high speed striking the two-year-old toddler and leaving the scene without ever calling for medical assistance for the infant or reporting the incident.
Siobhán Lankford senior counsel for the defence stressed the youth of the offender, difficulties in his background in terms of educational challenges and other issues and his cooperation with the investigation.
‘They left my baby on the side of the road’
The injured child’s mother recalled looking down at her feet outside their home seeing her son, “lying there lifeless and bleeding from the head – my other children were also screaming.
“I will never forget the gut-wrenching feeling that I knew something very serious was wrong. We feared for our little boy whose life was hanging by a thread as minutes seemed like hours.
“To my dismay, I was told that they didn’t stop, they kept driving at high speed on exiting the estate. I was shocked that they left my baby to die on the side of the road.
He went by ambulance to CUH where his father and I watched helpless while he had a seizure, his eyes rolled in the head and he was frothing from the mouth. He was resuscitated in front of us.
“We were rushed out of the room where doctors and nurses worked tirelessly to save his life, unlike the occupants of the car that knocked him down who failed to even raise the alarm. All they cared about was not getting caught.
“He was put on life support and transferred to Temple Street hospital in Dublin. We discovered he had suffered a broken collarbone, a broken shoulder blade, fractured hip and a collapsed left lung, a bleed on the brain and most serious of all a diffuse axonal brain injury. He was in an induced coma
“Our perfect happy, healthy little boy would have to fight the bravest battle of his life at the tender age of two years and eight months – we were heartbroken as were the rest of our extended family
“I can’t put into words how horrendously helpless we felt – while this was happening our other children were suffering at home in Cork.
‘Permanent traumatic brain injury’
“The incident made national news and our other kids were being asked at school if their brother had died – this was very upsetting. He was unable to walk, talk or use his hands –he couldn’t even hold his head – he was like a new baby all over again. He was being fed through a tube and he had started a rehabilitation programme in Temple Street. He would have to relearn how to do everything again and nobody could say for sure whether he could do any of these things again.
“He spent eight days on life support, 12 days in intensive care, and seven weeks in Temple Street and then transferred back to CUH where he spent another two weeks and he recently spent another two weeks in the national Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire and will have to spend time there again next year.
“He has a permanent traumatic brain injury and he will suffer with this for the rest of his life. He struggles with his speech his processing is slower, his understanding of things isn’t as it should be – he has sensory issues which he never had.
“He’s highly emotional and he is too young to do a neuro assessment of him but it is possible he could have learning difficulties and an intellectual disability and we were told he would probably stay dependent for the rest of his life – all of this has taken its toll on our family so much
“Our home which we worked so hard to buy just doesn’t feel the same anymore, we don’t feel safe anymore. We don’t, and our children don’t feel safe, they won’t even stay downstairs on their own if I am upstairs.
“He has never expressed any remorse whatsoever to me for what he has inflicted on our son and family.
“Our lives now consist of daily appointments with speech and language, physiotherapy, occupational therapy while also caring for our other two children – life is draining at the moment and this is down to the defendant’s complete disregard for the law and his reckless behaviour.”
The child’s mother expressed her thanks for the support from family, friends, neigbhbours, the wider community, gardaí, ambulance crews, doctors and nurses at CUH and Temple Street and staff at National Rehabilitation Centre and Support for Victims After Crime.