The late Shane Patton
By Staff Reporter
The parents of a young Donegal man who was killed in a car crash have said that they no longer have faith in the legal system.
Eighteen-year-old Shane Patton was killed in July 2012 in a collision near his Drumkeen home. Eamonn Lynch, a repeat offender with almost 500 convictions including more than 200 for road traffic offences was jailed for 18 months for careless driving causing the death of Shane Patton, at a recent sitting of Letterkenny Circuit Court.
In an interview in today's Irish Daily Mail, Shane's father, Martin Patton said: "The crime of killing someone in Ireland is now a petty crime. Lynch is banned from driving in the UK until 2023. He never had an Irish licence. He'd no tax or insurance and he was drinking. He is the type of guy who comes into your house and fills up his bag while you're asleep in bed. Someone like that is not going to change."
In the interview, Shane's parents said that on the morning of the trial last week, they were called into a room and urged to support the Director of Public Prosecution's (DPP) downgrading of the charge from dangerous driving causing death to one of careless driving causing death. They explained they were told Lynch had agreed to plead guilty to the charge amid concerns the more serious charge might be thrown out on a technicality.
"We were more or less told if we didn't take it, the case might be thrown out of court," Julie said.
They both agreed to proceed with the case, on the lesser charge as they feared the case may be dropped.
"We felt it was our only option. It all happened in the day in court so we'd no time for it to sink in. As far as we knew we'd no option but to go with the DPP," Julie said.
The couple said that they were shell-shocked when they heard the extent of Lynch's history in court.
The couple said that they couldn't understand how the DPP could decide this was a case of careless driving knowing what they did about Lynch, said Julie, who bravely addressed a Victim Impact Statement (VIS) directly to Lynch in court.
Martin said: "Why didn't the judge step in and say something is wrong here? The DPP had everything and we had nothing. We still don't know if we can appeal this."
By law, Judge Martin Nolan could only deal with the charge before him and sentenced him to 18 months for pleading guilty to causing Shane's death by careless driving, backdating his term-time to November 10, the day before what would have been Shane's 23rd birthday.
When Julie learned that Lynch might be out by Christmas with good behaviour, she cried for an hour.
"We feel so, so cheated. We've no faith in the legal system anymore or the judges or the DPP. Why should we? Clearly the system is not working. Where is the sense in letting the guy out to reoffend again. He could kill someone else on the roads next Christmas. That's not to mention the gardaí who went to so much trouble and all the money this has cost the taxpayer over the years. I feel sorry for them - it took four years for no result either. The system is just rotten," she said.
Julie and Martin also refuse to accept Lynch's apology which was read out in court by his solicitor.
"Someone like him knows what to say and I don't believe he is sorry for killing my Shane.How could he be sorry when he keeps going out and offending. Who is going to be his next victim when he gets out in a few months?
"We were told the judge's hands were tied but that doesn't mean it's right.
"He should have gotten more prison time for what he's done. Why can't death by careless driving get three years, or be dependent on how bad the criminal [is]?
"We are sorry now, we didn't go to court by jury on dangerous driving but we don't know what we can do," said Martin.
The couple said that they are uncertain if they have the right to appeal the DPP and are uncertain what direction to take.
Martin and Julie said that they never want another family to endure the pain that they have.
"God forbid but it could happen to another family tonight somewhere in Ireland. It will happen again. We didn't know anything about this until it happened to our son, but it shouldn't be allowed to happen to another family.
"Shane shouldn't die in vain.
"We want people to contact us if they think they can help," said Julie.
"It will never bring Shane back, but it has to change as there's more families going to court hoping for justice and they are not going to get any because of this system. This has to stop," she said