Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Killer driver avoids jail term

Man knocked down his neighbour (65) as she returned from Mass

A 41-year-old man who knocked down and killed his neighbour in a road traffic accident in the Bogside area of Derry last year has been given a six month suspended jail sentence.

Laurence Michael Conaghan, a vehicle recovery driver, from Lisfannon Park, was told by Judge Piers Grant at the city's Crown Court that he would have to live with the consequences of his carelessness for the rest of his days.

Conaghan admitted causing the death of Sarah Patricia Duffy (65) also from Lisfannon Park, by careless driving at a pedestrian crossing close to the Lecky Road flyover on March 12, 2011. His sentence was suspended for two years and he was disqualified from driving for two years.

Mrs Duffy, a mother of one and grandmother of five, was on her way home after attending morning Mass in Long Tower chapel when she was struck by a people carrier driven by the defendant after she'd taken just two steps onto the crossing.

Judge Grant said Mrs Duffy had been concerned about this particular crossing and had expressed her safety concerns to members of her family.

“It may be of some comfort to her family that speed bumps have now been put into position at the pedestrian crossing which was an accident blackspot,” he said.

He said there had been incidents there in the past and on the day of the accident police who arrived at the scene were attacked by stone throwers.

He said the defendant was driving between 20 and 25mph on his way to a local garage to have a brake defect repaired in his car.

The defect had resulted in the car failing an MOT test the previous day but forensic reports said the defect played no role in the accident.

He told Conaghan, who had a clear record, that he had made an error in judgement with tragic consequences which he would carry as a burden for the rest of his life.

Judge Grant told members of Mrs Duffy's family who were in court that he had read their letters and looked at photographs they had of their mother and grandmother.

“These put a face to the victim and told the court something about her. In simple terms she was clearly a good woman who loved and who is still loved by her family.

“Their loss is a terrible blow to them and they will have difficulty in coming to terms with that,” he said.

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