A new restricted driver who was “acting the maggot” when he smashed his modified Volkswagen Golf, killing two teenage friends, has been sentenced to just 10 months in custody.
The sentence has been slammed as “appallingly lenient” by the road safety campaign group Brake.
Enniskillen Crown Court heard that Thomas Martin Nugent was a restricted driver of less than five months at the time of the fatal crash in January 2010, which claimed the lives of 18-year-old Paul McGrath and 16-year-old Anthony Eugene McKenna.
The court also heard, since the accident, a now 20-year-old Nugent, from Castleroddy Road, Omagh, was banned from driving last April by a Co Donegal court for drink driving, given a fixed penalty ticket for driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition the following month, and then finally arrested in August as a disqualified and uninsured driver.
Nugent, who was 17 at the time of the fatal crash, will serve 10 months in a Young Offenders' Centre followed by 10 months on licenced parole.
He was also banned from driving for five years for causing his friends’ death by careless driving, on January 7, 2010.
Prosecuting QC David Hunter said that Nugent's VW Golf ploughed into a tractor on the Omagh to Cookstown, Killyclogher Road, after speeding past a people carrier at up to 70mph.
Mr McGrath, in the back of the Golf, and Mr McKenna, the front seat passenger, were both fatally injured and were dead by the time the ambulance arrived.
Mr Hunter said to the tractor driver it appeared as if Nugent was “acting the maggot” when he shot out in front of the people carrier at the last second, on to the snow and ice-covered verge, before shooting back in again, in what another witness described as “unnatural” manoeuvre.
Nugent lost control of the VW, modified with low profile rims on the rear wheels and non-standard rear suspension units, and it slid sideways with the passenger side crashing into the front of the tractor.
Nugent was seriously injured in and spent several weeks in intensive care with multiple fractures.
When interviewed by police he said he had no recollection of the journey back to Omagh after he and his two friends had been to Cookstown to buy car parts.
Defence QC Adrian Colton said he had been instructed to express Nugent’s “sincere apologies and regret” at the loss of two very close friends.
Judge Geoffrey Miller QC said that as a restricted driver, Nugent's speed, given the atrocious conditions “was inexcusable and indicative of a high level of culpability on his part”.
The judge added while Nugent appeared to have “learned little”, given his subsequent motoring offences both here and in the Republic, he accepted “his sense of responsibility for the tragic outcome of his actions is genuine”.
Julie Townsend of road safety charity Brake said: “This is an appallingly lenient sentence for someone who has repeatedly shown blatant disregard for road safety laws and someone who has caused deaths. It's critical that appropriate penalties are put in place for dangerous drivers, especially those who kill — 10 months is grossly inadequate.”
“Dangerous drivers should be taken off the road permanently.”