Driver who caused eight deaths has his prison term doubled
A man whose dangerous driving caused eight deaths, in the worst road tragedy in the history of the State, has had his sentence doubled by the Court of Appeal.
The court found the two-year jail term handed down to Shaun Kelly was too lenient and sentenced him to eight years with the final four suspended.
Kelly (27), of Hill Road, Ballymagan, Buncrana, Co Donegal, had pleaded guilty at Letterkenny Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of eight men on a road between Clonmany and Buncrana on July 11, 2010.
Seven friends who were in Kelly's car all died along with Hugh Friel (66), who was driving home from bingo when Kelly's car crashed into his vehicle.
Kelly was sentenced to four years' imprisonment with the final two suspended by Judge John O'Hagan in December last. He was also disqualified from driving for 10 years.
However, the Court of Appeal yesterday set aside Kelly's sentence following a successful application by the Director of Public Prosecutions on grounds that it was "unduly lenient".
Giving judgment, Mr Justice George Birmingham said Kelly's culpability was very high and the harm caused was enormous. It was the worst road traffic accident in the history of the State, he said.
The court fixed eight years as its starting point having regard to the multiple fatalities, the prolonged and persistent period of deliberate bad driving, overtaking in a dangerous fashion, failing to adhere to a warning from another road user and Kelly's previous conviction for dangerous driving.
There were significant mitigating factors such as Kelly's youth and his guilty plea. He had also sustained injuries and although there was disagreement as to their extent, Mr Justice Birmingham said it was not something that could be minimised.
He said the attitude taken by the families of the young men was "extraordinarily generous in their approach".
He referred to a document handed into court by one of the victims' families that morning stating that Kelly had "now served five-and-a-half years of a life sentence".
He said the two-year suspended period imposed by the Circuit Court, "would not be inappropriate".
However, the court suspended a further two years in light of the "bitter disappointment" the outcome must have on somebody well into their sentence with a release date in sight and in light of documents handed into court by some of the victims' families which was highly relevant in considering the time and circumstances of his guilty plea.
The court did not interfere with the 10-year disqualification because increasing the disqualification "might hamper rehabilitation".