The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has appealed against the sentence imposed on a truck driver for the careless driving causing the death of Estlin Wall (3) and serious bodily harm to her father, Vincent three years ago.
By Gordon Deegan
The Courts Service today confirmed that appeal papers have been lodged by the DPP and the DPP is claiming that the sentence imposed by Judge Gerald Keys last month at Ennis Circuit Court on Senan O’Flaherty (63) of Lower Gowerhass, Cooraclare “is unduly lenient”.
In his sentence, Judge Keys imposed a €750 fine on small farmer, Mr O’Flaherty for the careless driving causing death of Estlin Wall on March 15th 2017.
Judge Keys also imposed a €750 fine on Mr O’Flaherty for careless driving causing serious bodily harm to Mr Wall on the same date near the village of Inagh.
Judge Keys, who retired as a judge this week, also imposed a mandatory four year driving ban on Mr O’Flaherty. Imposing sentence, Judge Keys stated that Mr O’Flaherty’s culpability was low and “at the bottom end of the spectrum” in the accident.
In court, Estlin’s mother, Amy wept at the sentencing remarking from her seat “that’s how old my daughter was – four years,” in reference to the driving ban.
Mr O’Flaherty had pleaded guilty to both careless driving offences, careless driving causing the death of an individual carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail.
The DPP appealed the sentence after Estlin’s parents, Vincent and Amy wrote a letter urging the office to appeal.
Today, Vincent Wall welcomed the DPP decision to appeal. He said: “It is great that the DPP has appealed. I am very happy with that and we feel vindicated.”
Mr Wall stated: “I don’t think we ever had high hopes that the trial or the court experience would make us feel that justice had been done but after the sentence, we were in shock as were never expected coming away that there would be an injustice. It was quite deflating.”
Mr Wall said that Amy had their third child a baby girl, Lucie last week at the maternity hospital in Limerick.
He said that it was their Garda liaison officer, Garda Deirdre Scanlon who informed them last Friday of the appeal, just after they had returned to their home in Ennistymon with Lucie from the hospital.
Mr Wall recalls, “We got the call 30 minutes after we arrived back with Lucie. Our mind was elsewhere but the importance of it definitely struck us.” The couple called the baby Lucie as that was the name Estlin had picked for the couple’s second born while Amy was pregnant- the baby was a boy and the couple named him Mannix. “We are home now with Lucie and back into our cocoon and very happy to be new parents of our third child.”
“It is definitely a happy situation but it quite sad as well, Estlin will never be forgotten”.
Mr Wall explained: “There was a lot of deja vu having Lucie home – seven years ago, I was holding a new born Estlin and it bringing back those memories too which is quite sad but it is a balancing act of happy and sad.”
He added: “Overall we are happy to to be home and happy that everything went well and happy that the DPP will try to rectify that sentencing.”
Explaining why he wrote the letter to the DPP on behalf of the couple, Mr Wall stated: “I felt that I had been gritting my teeth for a few days after the sentencing and I felt that I to make my feelings known to the people who are most important in this.”
He stated: “It took a few days to compose the letter and I sent it to them. I don’t think it if had much influence on their decision but it was important for me to get it off my chest.”
The crash left Vincent unconscious for a number of weeks at hospital and he missed Estlin’s funeral and today continues to recover from a brain injury sustained in the crash.
Poignantly one of the Wall family not to welcome baby Lucie home was Vincent’s late mother, Patricia. Patricia died from cancer in January 2018, 10 months after the tragic crash that claimed Estlin’s life.
In his powerful victim impact statement delivered in court, Mr Wall recalled: “Mum had fought off cancer twice with motivation from Estlin. After the crash, when a doctor at Limerick Hospital told my family that Estlin would not survive, my mum shrieked like a banshee and tried to bargain with God that they could trade places.
He added: “The motivation to fight her own battle drained from her and when cancer came calling again she had no strength or will to fight. She died ten months after Estlin.”
It is expected that the hearing of the DPP appeal before the Court of Appeal in Dublin won’t take place for another nine to 12 months.