Kildare serial driving offender drops appeal after warning 8.5 year hit-and-run prison sentence could be increased

Sentenced man was high on drugs and serving 25-year road ban at time of incident, which left victim with brain damage

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A serial driving offender who left two pedestrians seriously injured when he drove onto a busy footpath while high on drugs has dropped his appeal against an eight and a half year sentence at the last minute after being warned that the term of imprisonment could also be increased.

Lawyers for Paul Connolly (38), of Cregg Court, Kilmeague, Robertstown, Co Kildare, were due to appeal the sentence imposed by Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in May 2019 after he had pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm  to Michael Igoe (54) and Francis Dhala (19) at Coolmine Road, Coolmine on May 1, 2018.

Connolly, who was driving his young child to school at the time, was under the influence of drugs when his vehicle mounted the footpath and injured the two men, leaving Mr Dhala, a young law student, with a catastrophic brain injury.

Witnesses described how Connolly had passed a line of traffic waiting at a level crossing at Coolmine train station by mounting the footpath before doing a U-turn and “calmly” driving away.

Gardaí arrested Connolly a short time later after being alerted to his location by a driving instructor who had pursued his vehicle after seeing the incident.

At the time Connolly was serving a 25-year driving ban and had only been released from prison a month earlier.

He also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of drugs; possession of cannabis; failing to remain at the scene; failing to offer assistance; failing to alert gardaí; as well as driving without insurance or a driving licence on the same occasion.

Connolly had 215 previous convictions, including 14 for dangerous driving and three for hit-and-run incidents.

The sentencing judge, Judge Melanie Greally, imposed an eight and a half year prison term on Connolly but suspended the final 18 months.

Lawyers for Connolly told the Court of Appeal on Thursday that the case could be withdrawn following an adjournment for lunch.

Before the break, Mr Justice John Edwards presiding, with Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, had advised Connolly of the court’s powers to either reduce or increase the original sentence in appeal cases.