Sunday 25 February 2018

'What kind of message does it send out to those grieving?'

Road victim Steve Gray
Road victim Steve Gray
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A woman who lost her husband in a St Stephen's Day traffic tragedy and then devoted her life to promoting road safety warned that Ireland needs to enforce tougher sentences on those convicted of dangerous driving causing death.

Donegal campaigner Susan Gray admitted she was "appalled" at a report which indicated Irish judges are not utilising the full sentencing powers provided for them.

Susan was left a widow with two children aged under 12 years when her husband, Steve (51), was knocked down and killed while working as a hackney driver outside Inishowen in 2004.

Mr Gray had stopped his vehicle at the side of a straight stretch of road at 4.30am and was guarding his passengers alighting when he was knocked down by a learner driver.

The force of the impact was so great that he was lifted out of his shoes.

The learner driver was prosecuted for driving unaccompanied and was fined.

Ms Gray founded the national civil society group Parc in 2006 after the driver involved attempted to sue her for €4,250 because of the damage her husband's body had caused to his van.

"From that day on, I knew that nothing could ever hurt me again. But I didn't want any other family going through the heartache of what we had suffered."

PARC now campaigns for enhanced road safety through tougher sentences for offenders, better driver education and improved road infrastructure.

"Our experience is that judges give excessive weight to things like a plea, an apology to the family and claims about remorse from the driver," she said.

"Why on earth should a driver be given credit for an apology to a grieving family on the steps of the courthouse as they are about to be sentenced and often many years after the fatal collision?"

"And how can it be accepted as 'an early plea' by a judge."

Ms Gray said Parc members who have lost loved ones in road traffic collisions were "shocked and horrified" by some sentences.

"What kind of message does that send out and what is it saying to those grieving the loss of a loved one?" she asked.

Irish Independent

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