A MOTHER of two who mowed down a Limerick Garda, severing his foot and leaving him for dead in a ditch, was jailed for seven years with the final two suspended today (Friday).
Niamh McDonnell (30), of Gortskagh, Castlemahon, County Limerick, wept as Judge Tom O’Donnell also imposed a 10-year road ban at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court.
Ms McDonnell, the court heard, has two young children was drunk and had drugs in her system when she got behind the wheel of her mother-in-law’s car on June 30, 2022.
The court heard she ploughed straight into Inspector Niall Flood from behind, knocking him off his 22-speed Giant carbon frame racing bike and onto the bonnet of the car, smashing the windscreen in the impact.
Mr Flood (53), who was off-duty at the time, was catapulted into a ditch, landing face up in a foot of dykewater.
The court heard Mr Flood’s right foot was ripped off in the impact and was later found wedged into the car at Ms McDonnell’s home.
He was critically injured and only brought back from the brink due to the quick actions of a passing motorist who tied a tourniquet around his damaged limb.
Mr Flood was airlifted from the scene to Cork University Hospital where he had to be resuscitated. Efforts to reattach his foot were unsuccessful due to the limb being “contaminated” as it had been wedged into the front headlamp of McDonnell’s car.
McDonnell, who did not stop at the scene, told Gardaí she “panicked” when she knew she had struck a person.
“He (Mr Flood) went up onto the bonnet, my windscreen was destroyed. I kept going, I didn’t stop, I kept going,” McDonnell told Gardaí after her arrest.
Ms McDonnell admitted to dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm to Mr Flood; drunk driving; drug driving; failing to stop at the scene; and failing to help Mr Flood at the scene.
Judge O’Donnell said it was a “horrific incident” which left Mr Flood with “catastrophic life-changing injuries”.
Mr Flood, a vastly experienced, highly respected, and popular garda inspector in the Limerick Garda Division, was not able to attend the sentencing hearing due to ongoing issues with his injuries which have left him “prone to lung inflections”, the judge said.
Mr Flood wrote in his victim impact settlement, which was read to the court on his behalf, how McDonnell’s decision to drive while high on drink and cannabis was “unforgivable and incomprehensible”.
“I was struck from the rear by a drunk and drug driver who left me for dead and bleeding out,” Mr Flood stated.
His wife, Margaret Flood, told the court that she and her husband were “psychologically and physically traumatised”.
Ms Flood said McDonnell’s behaviour on the day were “criminal” and the collision was “no accident”.
“She (McDonnell) drove off and left him for dead, that is the cruel nature of the defendant … you would stop if you hit a dog.”
Margaret Flood said the incident has “turned our lives upside down”.
Judge O’Donnell said McDonnell was “two and half times over the limit” after driving on a cocktail of “cannabis, five vodka and Red Bulls, and five other shots of alcohol”.
“She went to the pub instead of going home, she was given a lift from the pub to her car but she declined a lift (home) because she said the car was needed at her home,” the judge said.
Judge O’Donnell said it was a “horrific incident” and that the nature of Mr Flood’s injuries have been “deeply disturbing” for him and his family.
The judge said McDonnell’s decision to “put herself behind the wheel of a car, while intoxicated” had “shattered” Niall and Margaret Flood’s lives and they will have to live with the “catastrophic fallout”.
Judge O’Donnell said McDonnell drove “erratically” and “at speed” on the day, and failing to stop render assistance to Mr Flood had led to “enormous tragic consequences which would have long-term impact on Niall Flood and his family”.
He said McDonnell was “highly culpable”, however, he noted she had expressed “genuine remorse”, was without any previous convictions, and that she had experienced a “difficult childhood and family background which resulted in mental health issues”.
He said the probation services noted McDonnell was of “low risk” of re-offending.
The judge said he could have imposed a headline sentence of eight years but, he said, taking into account all the aggravating and mitigating factors off the case, seven years in jail with the final two years suspended for a period of seven years was the “appropriate sentence”.