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Dad says 18 months for driver who killed his son 'a disgrace'

By Allan Preston

The father of a Donegal teenager killed by a drunk driver from Londonderry with nearly 500 convictions has rejected an apology from his son's Northern Irish killer, saying: "He's sorry he got caught."

Shane Patton was killed on July 12, 2012 in Drumkeen, Co Donegal when his car was hit by a drunk driver travelling at around 100mph.

The teenager had only just finished his leaving certificate exam and had dreams of working as a car mechanic.

The man behind the wheel, Eamon Lynch, was handed an 18-month prison sentence in Letterkenny Circuit Court, sparking outrage from many due to his staggering criminal background.

The father-of-three from Londonderry had 483 convictions, including 280 traffic offences as well as 50 convictions for burglary.

When he hit the teenager in his car, he had no licence, tax, insurance and was drunk behind the wheel.

Following the tragedy, Lynch crossed the border back into Northern Ireland, but was extradited before Christmas under a European arrest warrant.

During his trial he pleaded guilty to careless driving and also wrote a letter of apology to the Patton family.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Shane's father Martin Patton branded the 18-month sentence a "disgrace."

"Death by dangerous driving is almost a petty crime in this country," he said.

"It's very frustrating for the family, it's not going to change and it's going to happen again. I've seen numerous cases where they only get a year or two in jail, that's even for dangerous driving."

"We won't be accepting (Mr Lynch's) apology, he can shove that. He's sorry that he got caught, he'd skipped across the border."

He added: "It's just happening too many times in this country, I don't know how it's going to change. It's actually a disgrace the sentences that are handed out."

Remembering his son Shane, he said: "He'd just finished school by two weeks. He had a course lined up in Londonderry to become a mechanic. For him it was always cars, cars, cars."

"He was working since he was 16, he didn't drink or smoke.

"It's still really hard on his younger brother and sister (Jason and Dina). There's not really much we can do about it, we just want his story to get as much publicity as possible. Something needs to be done."

The Irish Independent reported that during Mr Lynch's trial, the court heard how he was driving his Toyota Celica with his partner just after midnight on July 12, 2012 when the crash happened.

CCTV footage from a local service station had captured the entire incident.

Garda forensic examiners estimated that Lynch was travelling at 165kph (100mph) on a road with a 100kph (62mph) speed limit.

Shane Patton, of Cloghroe, Drumkeen, emerged from a side road, but Lynch was travelling so fast that he did not have time to take evasive action and smashed into the teenager's car.

During the trial, the teenager's heartbroken mother Julie Patton read a victim impact statement out to the court.

Mrs Patton said that her entire family were heartbroken that their "happy, beautiful boy" had been taken from them.

She said Shane's brother and sister, Dina and Jason, did not have someone to help them with their homework and how she set the table for four people instead of five.

She added how his grandmother Mary had to watch Shane being buried on what should have been a celebration of her 70th birthday.

Letterkenny Circuit Court also heard how Shane, who had passed his driving test aged just 17, had only ever wanted to be a mechanic.

While in school he would tell teachers what was wrong with their cars.

The court also heard how Shane Patton's car was in good condition, and was taxed and insured.

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