Saturday 18 November 2017

'Unduly lenient' sentence of man whose dangerous driving caused deaths of eight people being considered by Court of Appeal

Ruaidhrí Giblin

The Court of Appeal is considering the sentence to impose on a man whose dangerous driving caused the death of eight people in Donegal five years ago.

It follows a finding by the court last month that Shaun Kelly's original sentence of four years imprisonment with the final two suspended was “unduly lenient”.

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.

He 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 ten years.

In October, the Director of Public Prosecutions sought a review of Kelly's sentence on grounds that it was “unduly lenient”.

Counsel for DPP, Úna Ní Raifeartaigh SC, told the Court of Appeal that it was the worst fatal collision and the worst case of dangerous driving in the history of the State.

Ms Ní Raifeartaigh said the sentence of four years imprisonment with two suspended did not reflect the gravity of Kelly's culpability and the harm that was actually caused.

The Court of Appeal acceded to the DPP's application, found that his sentence was “unduly lenient” and he was due to be resentenced by the court today.

However, Mr Justice George Birmingham said the court had been asked to consider three documents sent by three of the victims' families which “went beyond the traditional remit” of victim impact reports.

Mr Justice Birmingham reitertaed a point made in the court's judgment that views of victims, while to be considered, could never be determinative of sentence - whether they were calling for a maximum sentence or for the case to be disposed of in another way.

It was a public prosecution, brought by the DPP in the name of the people of Ireland, he said.

Mr Justice Birmingham said it would be “harsh and really quite insenstive” to refuse to accept them but it remained to be seen what weight would be attached to them.

Having risen momentarily, Mr Justice Birmingham, along with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards, returned to state that the court would like to announce its decision today.

What emerged from the documents was the “desire for closure”. He said the court was conscious that people had travelled from Donegal and that Mr Kelly has not known his fate but the “decision he have to take is a serious one”.

More to come...

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