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Dangerous-driving teen in garda death crash gets six years' jail

THE man charged with dangerous driving causing the death of a garda after knocking him down with his car while trying to flee a roadblock, has been jailed for six years.

Jamie McGrenaghan (19) had previously admitted dangerous driving causing the death of Garda Robbie McCallion in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, on March 26, 2009.

There were emotional scenes in court yesterday as Garda McCallion's family praised the gardai for their support, but refused to accept any apology from McGrenaghan's family.

The dead man's family yesterday said they had been very disappointed about the 'not guilty' verdict in the manslaughter trial last Friday at Letterkenny Circuit Court.

Judge John O'Hagan said it was a very, very serious case but one in which he must not seek to take revenge on Jamie McGrenaghan. "Robbie McCallion was a member of the Garda, who go out to look after us. They are not called guardians of the peace for nothing. They take risks on our behalf," he said.

He criticised public representatives for questioning his advice to the jury to ignore the fact that Robert McCallion was a garda, saying he was merely following the instructions of the Justice Minister.

He sentenced McGrenaghan to seven years for dangerous driving causing death, and suspended the last year of the sentence. He also jailed him for three years for stealing a car, five years for recklessly endangering two other gardai when he drove at them, and three years for each of eight burglary and criminal damage charges. All sentences will run concurrently, meaning that the longest he could spend in jail is six years.

A statement read after sentencing by the late Garda McCallion's brother-in-law Marty Roughneen, said the family was very disappointed with the verdict of not guilty in the manslaughter trial last Friday.

"We are very disappointed with the verdict last Friday. Members of An Garda Siochana do their duty, day in and day out, protecting the communities in which they work. Their services are vital to the maintenance of law and order and that is what Robert was doing when he was fatally injured.

"Robert was at Tara Court for no other reason than he was carrying out his duty as a garda and to say the least we are heartbroken at the circumstances in which he lost his life which should never have happened.

"Gardai, as Robert did, often put themselves in situations where they risk life and limb. It is of vital importance that they are adequately protected when they are carrying out their duties, and in particular that there are appropriate safeguards in place to ensure that the fate that befell Robert does not happen again," he said.

Members of the McCallion family, including Robbie's parents Bob and Nancy, brother John, sisters Noirin and Deirdre and girlfriend Marie O'Donnell, stood in tears as the statement was read, but did not comment further.

Last week a jury unanimously decided that McGrenaghan was not guilty of the man-slaughter of Garda McCallion.

The court had earlier heard that McGrenaghan went with another man, Cathal Dunleavy, to steal a car at Tara Court in Letterkenny in the early hours of March 26, 2009.

Gardai tried to block their escape route by putting their patrol car across the road, but McGrenaghan reversed his car 100 yards before accelerating at the gardai and sending Garda McCallion 15ft into the air.

Irish Independent