A MAN who was handed a suspended sentence for the manslaughter of a six-year-old boy got off "too lightly", it has been claimed.
South Down MLA Jim Wells slammed a nine-month suspended sentence handed down to Damien McCann.
McCann, a scaffolding contractor from Sandy Hill in Newry, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of little Stuart Wilson, after the speedboat which McCann was steering was involved in a collision on a sunny August bank holiday three years ago.
The court heard that the 37-year-old had been travelling in a speedboat off Cranfield beach, Co Down,with his daughters when it came into close proximity with another speedboat towing Stuart Wilson, who was wake-boarding.
McCann's boat collided with either the tow rope or the little boy, the court was told.
Judge Kevin Finnegan said he had given McCann "significant credit" for his guilty plea and his expression of remorse.
The defendant had accepted that the trim setting of his boat caused the boat to be raised, obstructing his view, he added.
"The defendant did not see the deceased," he said.
Speed was not a factor in the case, the court heard.
McCann was sentenced to nine months in jail, suspended for three years
Jim Wells, who sits on the Assembly's Justice Committee, slammed the sentence as "too light". He said: "I was at the funeral. It devastated the entire Rathfriland community – and as I got to know about the little lad and his parents, I realised we had been robbed of a lovely little boy."
He said he was aware of the impact the little boy's death had on the defendant.
But he added: "It was too light. It was a dreadful accident... a truly, truly dreadful event, but I do not believe the sentence has actually reflected the seriousness of what happened.
"I think the Rathfriland community were expecting a bit more."
North Down MLA Alex Easton, who also sits on the Justice Committee, said he was "surprised" at the judge's decision.
"When you look at similar incidents caused in car deaths... they seem to be somewhat stiffer," he said.
"One has to question why the difference between the offences on the water and on the road."