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Sentence increase for drunk driver who killed Omagh student

Thursday, 12 January 2017

A DRUNK driver who knocked down and killed Omagh student, Enda Dolan, and left him on the road 'like a bag of rubbish' has had his jail sentence increased by a year after the young man's family appealed the original sentencing.

Enda Dolan, from Killyclogher, was in his first term studying architecture at Queen's University when a van struck him on the Malone Road, south Belfast, in October 2014.

The driver, David Lee Stewart, (31), of Gray's Park Avenue, admitted a series of charges linked to the teenager's death but was only sentenced to seven years - three-and-a-half in prison and the same on licence - last April.

This was challenged as being unduly lenient and on Monday, following an appeal, the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan, increased the time Stewart would spend in prison by one year.

Members of the Dolan family packed the public gallery as the three appeal judges delivered their verdict. Stewart was not brought into court, but appeared instead by video-link from prison. Handing down the ruling, he said: "Nothing this court can do can turn the clock back. What happened was senseless needless and entirely avoidable."

When the matter initially came before the Court of Appeal in Belfast hearing back in September, the Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory, claimed that the drunk driver who knocked down and killed the Omagh student before trying to escape should have received a tougher sentence,

Mr McGrory said the seven-year sentence - only half of which will be served in jail - imposed on Stewart for causing the death was unduly lenient.

Stewart drove on for several hundred metres with the teenager still on the roof. He had taken drugs and up to 13 drinks - including six pints of beer and four Jagerbombs - before getting behind the wheel.

Following the collision he drove from the scene before crashing into a lamppost further along the road. Earlier last year Stewart pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and other motoring offences.

Speaking to the Tyrone Constitution shortly after the result of the appeal was announced on Monday, Enda's father, Peter, said while they were disappointed with the outcome they were still determined the 'Justice for Enda' campaign would go on.

"There have been no winners today. No matter what the outcome Enda was never coming home with us anyway. From that point of view I knew we weren't going to be satisfied. Certainly we welcome the increase in the sentencing, it probably should have been quite a bit more, but I suppose under the legislation as it stands, that's what the judge deemed appropriate. That's the law as it stands at the minute and that's what we have to deal with."

Mr Dolan added the family felt justified in taking the action it did to challenge the original sentence as being unduly lenient. They all felt traumatized by what they had to go through and while it was good to have this hurdle out of the way, they had hoped for a better result.

 

'Horrific'

"Our son Enda had a horrific death, mown down as he innocently walked along the pavement back to his halls of residence on the Malone Road in Belfast," Mr Dolan said.

"He was left like a bag of rubbish, alone in the middle of the road without even being checked by either Stewart or (passenger William Casement) to see if something could have been done to save his life. This image haunts us every day," he said.

"Whether we're happy with four-and-a-half years is difficult to say - probably not, but it's better than what was there before, anything is better than what they had before."

He said while Monday offered a certain sense of closure, the campaign they had started would continue.

"We have met the Justice Minister and lobbied others. The fight will continue until we get a conclusion and the law changed. At present the law talks of 14 years as a maximum sentence but we need that increased that to at least 20 years or life is possible. If we had that at least we could rest easier or some other family could find things easier to deal with whenever they come out of court."

He added the outcome, if anything, added focus to what they wanted to achieve.

"Whenever you get that knock on the door in the early hours of the morning, you are already being kicked trying to deal with that tragedy. Whenever you come out of the initial sentencing, given the disgusting way we were treated and the sentence handed out, you were kicked again, you are still down and it doesn't help you in any way, but the fight is still there and will push us on to go further, to push harder to see if we can do anything to change the law."

He added there was no deterrent out there and that was why the figures for drink-driving were on the increase.

"It's important that there is a deterrent there and certainly for someone who causes death by dangerous driving," he said.

Meanwhile,West Tyrone UUP MLA., Ross Hussey, said he was disappointed that the drunk driver's sentence had only been increased by another year.

"Anyone who read the details of this death and the callous attitude of the drunk driver who left this young man dying on the side of the road can only sympathise with the Dolan family on their loss. The courts initial sentence was pathetic and the review even worse," said Mr Hussey.

"The offending driver will be out of jail and almost able to reapply for a driving licence. I have a personal view that the circumstances are such that this deserved a life sentence with a minimum jail term of 15 years and a direction that he never be allowed to drive again.

"Too many young lives have been lost due to drunk driving and dangerous driving and in circumstances where someone is killed the driver must face the consequences of his or her actions. I strongly believe that in circumstances where a driver causes the death of another or (in a case of) a third drunk-driving offence this should lead to a lifetime disqualification from driving."

SDLP West Tyrone MLA., Daniel McCrossan, also expressed his support for the Dolan family.

"The thoughts and prayers of Tyrone were with the Dolan's as they revisited this most terrible tragedy. The man responsible will now spend four-and-a-half years in prison but it must not be forgotten that the Dolan family will carry the loss of Enda for the rest of their lives.

"Reflecting on the magnitude of their loss, most will still think that this revised sentence remains unduly lenient. It is time that we consider if this constitutes justice. If this modest extension is the most the Dolan's could have expected under the current legislation then there is certainly a need to review it," he said.

He added: "I have been in contact with Peter Dolan throughout these legal proceedings and I will continue to offer him my support in the time ahead."

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