'Take her down' – judge jails care assistant for crashing car when drunk with baby on board

A hospital care assistant has been jailed after she crashed her car while drunk, with an open can of beer beside her and her one-year-old baby crying in the backseat.

The
single mother-of-one had been drinking the night before after working six 12-hour shifts in a row, then had more beer at home before leaving to bring her
child to an afternoon birthday party.

Gardai
found her slouched over the wheel, so drunk she was “unable to talk,” with her
young child in a “highly distressed” state. She tested more than four times the
alcohol limit.

Jailing
her for 28 days, Judge David McHugh said it was an “appalling breach of trust”
and she “thoroughly deserved” the sentence.

The
woman, who cannot be named, pleaded guilty to
being drunk in charge of a child under the age of seven, as well as being drunk in
charge of a vehicle.

Blanchardstown
District Court heard the incident happened at Nangor Road, Clondalkin at 3.30pm
on June 24 last.

Garda
Sergeant Maria Callaghan said gardai were called to the scene and found the car
in the bus lane with the accused slouched over the steering wheel. The woman
had a can of beer open in the car.

When
gardai spoke to her she was slurring her words and her one-year-old baby was in
the back seat. She was arrested and brought to Clondalkin Garda Station, where
she tested more than four times the drink driving limit. The child was removed
to safety.

The
court heard the accused had smelled of alcohol and the baby was in a highly
distressed state, crying and sweating. The mother had no previous convictions.

The
incident was investigated by the child and family agency, Tusla, which found no
ongoing issues, defence solicitor Valerie Buckley said. The agency was
satisfied that it was a “once off incident that will not be repeated.”

The
accused, a single mother, was working as a care assistant at a Dublin hospital
for the last five years.

Before
the incident happened, she had worked six 12-hour night shifts and on the day,
she was going to a birthday party with her child.

She
had drink taken the night before and it was still in her system, Ms Buckley
said. The accused “had some beer in her home before she left and she got in her
car and drove.”

Nobody
was injured and she was “very grateful for that.”

The
accused had not taken a drink since the incident and was in counselling. She
had worked in the health care sector all her life.

The
woman was garda vetted and would lose her job is she was convicted for the
charge of being drunk in charge of a child, Ms Buckley said.

Judge
McHugh said it was an “appalling breach of trust” for the accused’s child and
members of the public who were put in danger.

The
woman had been “incapable of speaking or performing any other normal function
when the gardai came upon her in a crashed car.”

Ms
Buckley said her client was “beyond devastated that this happened.”

Judge
McHugh fined the accused €200 and banned her from driving for three years for
being drunk in charge of a vehicle.

The
judge considered the other charge to be more serious and that the breach of
trust was “so great that I’m sending this lady to prison.”

“Were
it not for the intervention of fate, or whatever, she may well have been in a
different forum,” he said. “She thoroughly deserves the sentence being handed
down today and I have no hesitation in imposing same. Take her down.”

He
refused to reconsider his decision after Ms Buckley appealed for lenience,
saying the accused had nobody else to mind her child.

The
judge noted that the relevant law –  under the Summary Jurisdiction Act of
1908 – was “seriously outdated” as the maximum penalty was “40 shillings with
or without hard labour for a period of a month.”

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