Disqualified dangerous driver who ruined lives jailed for six years

A disqualified driver who drove down the wrong side of the M50 to evade gardaí before ploughing into the car of an elderly couple has been jailed for six years.

Brian Reilly (24) ruined the lives of John and Ellen Armstrong after he crashed into their car as they were stopped at a red light in Finglas in January last year, Judge Melanie Greally told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Ellen Armstrong suffered significant injuries and had to have the tip of her thumb amputated in the wake of the crash, which has left her dependent on others for care, the court heard.

Reilly, a disqualified driver with 126 previous convictions, was trying to evade gardaí after he was stopped and asked for his driving license. He had been released from jail just six weeks prior to the incident after serving a sentence for offences including endangerment, the court heard.

Reilly of Tailteann Drive, Navan, Co Meath, pleaded guilty to two counts of endangerment, one count of dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm to Ellen Armstrong, one count of refusing to provide a blood or urine sample and one count of driving without insurance on January 29, 2020.

Sentencing him today/yesterday (FRI), Judge Greally said that Reilly “exposed four separate drivers to risk of death or serious harm” on the day in question.

“In the case of Mrs Armstrong, he inflicted a life-long episode of pain and loss of independence and loss of of the pursuits she enjoyed so much,” she said.

She imposed a sentence of seven and a half years and suspended the final 18 months on a number of conditions, including that Reilly engage with drug addiction services. She disqualified him from driving for life.

Garda Kieran Moloney previously told the court that a garda approached Reilly's car at a garage on the North Road in Finglas, after he noticed Reilly and two other occupants of the car were acting suspiciously.

When asked for his licence, Reilly took off at speed, going the wrong way around a roundabout before joining the M50.

During the pursuit, which gardaí had to abandon as it was too dangerous, Reilly drove down the wrong side of the M50 in the hard shoulder before driving down the wrong side of the N2.

He clipped one car while swerving across lanes on the M50 and reversed into another car at the Ballymun slip road. The incident came to an end when he crashed into a van at Kilshane Cross.

This collision sent his car crashing into the Armstrongs, who were stopped at a red light. Their car then crashed into a tree.

Reilly fled the scene and was found by gardaí hiding behind a nearby bush. When taken to James Connolly Memorial Hospital, he refused to provide a blood or urine sample to ascertain whether he was intoxicated, the court heard.

Ellen Armstrong suffered multiple rib fractures and other injuries in the crash, the court heard. She had to have the tip of her right thumb amputated and now needs help washing, getting dressed and performing basic household tasks, according to her victim impact report.

Her husband John Armstrong still suffers pain on a daily basis since the incident. He suffered a head wound and had a seizure in the wake of the crash.

The couple feel they have “little left to live for” now that their independence and daily activities, such as going for walks and shopping, have been taken away from them, the court heard.

Keith Spencer BL, defending, previously handed up a letter of apology to the Armstrongs but the court heard they do not wish to receive it at present.

Mr Spencer said his client had “panicked” when pulled over by gardaí. The court heard Reilly has spent much of his life in and out of prison and has a drug addiction. He is one of a large family and received a limited education.

Almost half of Reilly's previous convictions are for road traffic offences, including six for dangerous driving, nine for driving without a licence and eight for driving without insurance.

“He has directly caused adversity and harm to two individuals who were expecting a comfortable retirement,” Mr Spencer said, adding Reilly was extremely remorseful.

Judge Greally accepted Reilly was genuinely remorseful and she noted he had a “less than ideal start in life”. But she said he must face a lengthy prison sentence given the seriousness of his offending.

“These are two elderly people whose lives have been ruined because of the actions of the accused, who was disqualified from driving at the time,” the judge said.

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