Two sentenced for circus lorry deaths

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

A circus boss and his employee were today given suspended sentences and a fine of €25,000 for causing a collision in which a mother and daughter were killed in Galway last April.

Stephen Courtney (35) from Earl Street, Longford town, and Francisco Daria (24), a Venezuelan national with addresses in Cherry Wood Park, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Galway Circuit Criminal Court last month to several charges relating to the collision.

Joan Reilly and her daughter, Siobhán, were killed on the N17, at Cloonacauneen, Tuam Road, when a runaway circus trailer collided with their car on April 6th.

Today Judge Raymond Groarke sentenced Courtney to two years in prison and fined him €25,000 for intentionally or recklessly engaging in conduct that allowed a trailer to be attached to a lorry unit and another trailer in a defective manner. The sentence was suspended for two years.

Daria – who had driven the circus lorry that pulled the trailer – was found guilty on two counts of dangerous driving and was sentenced to three years in prison on both charges, to run concurrently.

Judge Groarke suspended both sentences for two years and disqualified the accused from driving for seven years.

Judge Groarke said the deaths of both women were “utterly unnecessary and avoidable.”

He said: “Joan and Siobhán Reilly died because no one took the time to see that a clip was in place in a towing pin. To see that this essential piece of equipment, to ensure safety was in place; it would not have taken a minute,” he said.

Speaking after the case, Mrs O’Reilly’s husband, John, said the two men had paid a “small price” for their actions.

“In our opinion, they’ve paid a very small price for taking the life of my wife and my only daughter, for taking the life of my sons’ mother and their only sister.

“We are going to have a dark and lonely, very lonely, Christmas,” he said. “I do not have the words to sum up how we feel, but we are devastated.”

What can you do

– Boycott circuses with performing animals

Become a Freedom for Animals supporter – you can help to make a difference

– Write to your Assembly Member/TD, asking them to support a ban animal use in circuses. Contact details can be found HERE for Republic of Ireland and HERE for Northern Ireland

– Write to your local newspaper highlighting what is wrong with circuses.

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