DPP to appeal jail sentence of driver who caused eight deaths
THE Director of Public Prosecutions is set to appeal a two-year prison sentence handed down to a man who caused the deaths of eight people in the worst car crash in the history of the State.
Shaun Kelly (26), from Hill Road, Ballmaggan, Buncrana, Co Donegal, was given a four-year sentence last month, with the last two years suspended.
He was also banned from for driving ten years by Judge John O'Hagan sitting at Letterkenny Circuit Court. With remission, Kelly will be released early next year.
The DPP has refused to comment on individual cases, however families of the eight men who died have been told of the Appeal Court review. Four of the eight families involved asked Judge O'Hagan not to jail Kelly. However, other families were unhappy.
Kelly had originally pleaded not guilty to causing eight deaths by dangerous driving, changing his plea as his trial was due to begin last July.
Gardai and road safety groups had privately expressed dissatisfaction with the sentence handed down by Judge O'Hagan.
Before sentencing, the judge told a packed court room: "It's at times like this it is difficult to be a judge; the tragedy which unfolded was horrific, beyond description."
The men died when Kelly crashed his car head-on into a vehicle driven by pensioner Hugh Friel on July 11, 2010. Mr Friel, who was returning home from bingo, died.
Seven men in Kelly's car, all of them friends, also died.
Eyewitnesses described Kelly spinning his tyres as he left Clonmany, where he and his friends had been watching the World Cup Final on TV in a local pub. Kelly hadn't been drinking.
Anthony Friel, who lived with his brother Hugh Friel, told the judge that he had considered taking his own life several times since the crash and hadn't been able to farm his land since because Hugh wasn't there.
"I ask 'how can a 66-year-old man be wiped off the face of the earth?" he said. "My world has fallen apart. My world has been turned upside down."
He said he had sat up the night of the crash waiting for Hughie to come home "but he never did". The family, he said, felt very angry.
The men who died in the crash the road between Clonmany and Buncrana on July 11, 2010 were Hugh Friel (66) of 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; Patrick J McLaughlin (21), of Roxstown, Burnfoot; James McEleney (23), of Meenaduff, Clonmany and Damien McLaughlin (21), of Umricam, Buncrana.