Driver jailed over crash that killed eight asks court to grant early release
A man jailed for a car crash that killed eight people in Co Donegal seven years ago has asked the High Court to direct his release from prison on the grounds he was due one-third enhanced remission.
In February this year, following reports in the Irish Independent and other newspapers which revealed the shock of relatives of the eight victims at Shaun Kelly's temporary release to work on his family's farm, his regime of weekend releases was cancelled.
Yesterday, Micheál P O'Higgins SC, counsel for Kelly, of Hill Road, Ballymagan, Buncrana, told Ms Justice Mary Faherty that, with a full third remission, Kelly should have been already released in mid-August.
Mr O'Higgins, who appeared with barrister Karl Monahan, said Mr Kelly, now aged 29, had been jailed in December 2014 for four years with two years suspended. This, he said, had been doubled a year later by the Court of Appeal to eight years with four years suspended.
On July 11, 2010, Kelly was driving a Volkswagen Passat which collided with a car travelling in the opposite direction driven by Hugh Friel, a 66-year-old man on his way home from bingo. Seven young men who were travelling in the car with Kelly were all killed. Their ages ranged from 19 to 23.
Solicitor Niamh Kelly, of Michael J Staines and Company, told the court in an affidavit that Kelly's release date, based on a remission rate of one-quarter, was due on December 16 next. Based on a one-third enhanced remission he should have been freed last Friday.
Mr O'Higgins said the Minister for Justice had refused to release Kelly from Loughan House Open Centre, Blacklion, Co Cavan. He was now seeking to quash the minister's decision by way of judicial review.
Kelly is also seeking to quash the minister's order of February last revoking his temporary release following media coverage with pictures of him working on the family farm. Kelly also seeks an order directing the reconsideration by the minister of his application for enhanced remission.
What was described as a Media Book opened to the court outlined headlines in the various newspapers that covered Kelly's temporary release including: 'Secret day release for driver who killed eight' (The Herald) and 'Anger as man jailed for killing eight released' (Irish Examiner).
Mr O'Higgins told the court there was nothing in prison legislation entitling the minister to refuse temporary release on the basis of newspaper coverage and none of the articles indicated any danger to the safety and protection of Kelly by being granted temporary release.
In his application to the minister for enhanced remission, Kelly stated: "I am truly sorry for my actions and the devastating losses which flowed from them culminating in the ongoing grief of the families of my close friends and my own cousin who lost their lives on that fateful night."
Judge Faherty granted Kelly's legal team leave to judicially challenge the minister's refusal for early enhanced release, leave to quash his decision revoking temporary release, and leave to seek an order directing the minister to reconsider both matters.