Sunday 25 February 2018

Man accused of killing eight in dangerous driving case may be unfit to stand trial

Greg Harkin

A MAN accused of killing eight people by dangerous driving may be unfit to stand trial, a court heard today.

The case against Shaun Kelly (24), from Hill Road, Ballymagan, Buncrana, was called at Letterkenny Circuit Court today and adjourned until April 1 after what a judge called a “bizarre” set of circumstances.

Mr Kelly is accused of causing the deaths of eight people in Inishowen in a car crash on July 11, 2010. His trial was due to begin next week.

However today prosecuting counsel Patricia McLaughlin told Judge Keenan Johnson that she was applying for a further adjournment after receiving a psychological report on Mr Kelly “last night.”

“I have to apply for an adjournment as the prosecution has just been furnished in relation to two very serious matters – psychological and engineering reports. There is a fitness to stand trial matter which has arisen,” said Ms McLaughlin.

The case had been listed for trial next week on the request of the defence when it was heard at Donegal Town Circuit Court in December.

Ms McLaughlin said however a psychological report dated January 22 this year had only been received last night.

Judge Johnson said it was “somewhat bizarre” that the medical report had only been handed over this month when it was the defence which had asked for the case to specially fixed for February 4.

Ms McLaughlin said the legal aid certificate in the case had been extended in May 2012 to get a psychiatric report.

However defence barrister Peter Nolan said his client had been constantly assessed since March 2011. A second report had arrived last week.

“We have to act on the medical evidence we have been given, it is a changing picture,” said Mr Nolan, “the issue will be one of fitness to stand trial.

“We are now being given a certain set of facts which I am not going to open to the court. My client is entitled to a fair trial,” he said.

Ms McLaughlin said the prosecution would now need to have Mr Kelly medically assessed and would not be in a position to go ahead with the case.

Judge Johnson commented: “I have to express my disquiet at the late application in this matter. I appreciate they (legal team) are acting under instructions.

“It is a source of huge distress to a large number of people.”

He adjourned the hearing until April 1 to deal with the “fitness to plead” issue.

The men who died in the crash on July 11th, 2010 were Hugh Friel (66), Urris, Clonmany, Eamon McDaid (22)of Ballymagan, Buncrana; Mark McLaughlin, (21) of Ballinahone, Fahan; Paul Doherty (19), of Ardagh, Ballyliffin; Ciaran Sweeney (19), of Ballyliffin; PJ McLaughlin (21), of Rockstown, Burnfoot; James McEleney (23), of Meenaduff, Clonmany and Damien McLaughlin (21), of Umricam, Buncrana.

The crash happened at Meenaduff between Buncrana and Clonmany.

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