Unrestrained children in car more serious than drink driving, says judge

Ongoing feud erupted in Portlaoise Courthouse

Having a child in a car without proper restraints is more serious than drink driving, said Judge Catherine Staines, last week convicting and fining two women in separate cases that came before Portlaoise District Court.

“Does she care about her children?” asked Judge Staines of Chantelle O’Reilly (24), New Line Road, New Line Close, Mountrath, charged with having a child under 17 unrestrained in her car, at Main Street, Borris in Ossory, on April 15, 2017.

Garda Amy Duffy gave evidence that the accused had a two-year-old child and a four-year-old in the car, with no child seats and no seat belts.

Asked Judge Staines: “Does she care about her children?”

Defence, Mr Barry Fitzgerald said his client had been cleaning the booster seats and she left them out to dry, but then she had to go somewhere and took the car without the seats.

Mr Fitzgerald said his client depended on her licence to drop her children to school.

Judge Staines asked was there a father in the house, to which Mr Fitzgerald replied that the father of the children was disqualified from driving.

“Have you ever seen video footage of car crash when there are no seat belts?” Judge Staines asked the accused. “A child could go through the window and be killed, this is more serious than drink driving.”

Convicting and fining the accused €100, Judge Staines said the only reason she wasn’t disqualifying O’Reilly was because there was no one else in the house who could drive.

In a separate case, Rachel Smith (26), Cullenbeg, Mountmellick, was charged with having a child unrestrained in the car, and being an unaccompanied learner driver, at Harbour Street, Mountmellick, on April 5, 2017.

Garda Grehan gave evidence she stopped the accused driving on that date as there was a six-year-old child in the front seat without a booster seat, with the seat belt going under the child’s arm.

The accused was driving on a provisional licence without a fully qualified driver with her. Fixed penalty notices went unpaid.

For having the child unrestrained, Judge Staines convicted and fined the accused €100 and disqualified her from driving for three months.

For being an unaccompanied driver, the accused was convicted and fined €100.