Cork teen who caused death of passenger and seriously injured woman sentenced

 A four-year sentence was imposed on a teenager who drove the wrong way down a motorway at exceptionally high speed in a stolen car, causing the death of his teenage passenger and life-changing injuries for a young woman about to embark on a new life in Australia.

Addressing the 17-year-old who cannot be identified as he is a juvenile, Judge Helen Boyle said: “Doing 160 and up to 170 kilometres per hour you drove for approximately 6kms the wrong way down the motorway forcing other motorists to take evasive action … until there was a head-on collision that caused the death (of 16-year-old Johnny Foley) and caused serious life-changing injuries to Ms (Roisín) Stakelum in the other car (and to teenagers in his own car).” 

The judge spoke of the extraordinary victim impact statement of Roisín Stakelum.

The total sentence imposed on the accused was one of four years of detention. The judge, together with both defence and prosecution lawyers, agreed that the correct legal position was that the maximum sentence on the charges could be half — or up to two thirds — of the sentence that could be imposed on an adult for similar offences.

The fatal car crash happened on the M8 motorway in County Cork. 16-year-old Johnny Foley — the front seat passenger in the high-speed car — lost his life. Detective Garda John Murphy said the deceased teenager’s family opted not to make a victim impact statement. Two seriously injured boys and a less seriously injured girl travelling in the back of this car also declined to make victim statements.

Victim impact statement

Mental health occupational therapist Roisín Stakelum was on her way to Dublin airport to fly to Australia to take up a new job there and join her sister and several friends, effectively to start a new life.

“What happened that night on the motorway altered the course of my life and changed me forever. I’m haunted by the memory of the impact. Haunted by the memory of the headlights and then what seemed like an explosion. I often think of how unlucky I was to be on that particular stretch of road at that exact moment.”

Worse was to come when she had to be re-admitted to hospital late last August with an intestinal obstruction and Ms Stakelum said morphine didn’t even touch the pain. “If someone gave me the option of dying or continuing to experience that pain I wouldn’t have thought twice about taking the offer of death,” she said.

“The burden of my injuries has placed strain on those closest to me, especially my parents… The emotional toll on my loved ones cannot be overstated and I am deeply saddened by the pain this has caused them.

“My future was once so certain. I knew exactly what I was going to be doing. I had it mapped out. Now I feel disconnected like I’ve been plugged out of my life. I can’t see a way back. I don’t think I’m ever going to feel like myself again… I won’t move to Australia now. That future doesn’t exist for me anymore. The physical pain, emotional distress and shattered dreams that resulted from this crash have left an indelible mark on my life.

“Being involved in a car crash where a 16-year-old boy tragically lost his life was a devastating outcome which has deeply affected me. The loss of a young life is an immense tragedy and I cannot help but feel a profound sense of sorrow for the untimely passing of this young person. The weight of this tragedy serves as a reminder how fragile life is and the irreversible impact that car crashes can have. My heart goes out to the family and loved ones who grieve his loss.” 

Describing the 4B team of medical staff as “like little angels to me”, she thanked all the CUH staff, paramedics and gardaí.

The accused, who cannot be named because he is a minor, admitted dangerous driving causing the death of Johnny Foley and three charges of dangerous driving causing serious harm to two teenage passengers in his car as well to the other motorist, Roisín Stakelum, in the two-car collision at Ballybeg, Mitchelstown, and to a count of endangerment, where other motorists had to take evasive action.

Detective Garda John Murphy of Fermoy Garda Station said the driver continued to try to evade the gardaí by entering and going around two roundabouts the wrong way at high speed and ultimately drove onto the M8 motorway and headed south on the northbound lane for over six kilometres at speeds in excess of 170 kph forcing several other motorists to take evasive action. At 0.45am the juvenile driving the stolen Toyota southwards crashed head-on into a Kia Riva heading north being driven Ms Stakelum from Glanmire.