Driver who ended motorcylist's life in 'the twinkling of an eye' on M2 slip road is spared jail
A motorcyclist's life was ended in "the twinkling of an eye" after a moment of inattention by a driver, a court has heard.
As he sentenced a weeping Katriona Kearney for causing the death of Eamon Farrelly by careless driving, a judge described it as "the saddest case I have ever come across".
The devastated 27-year-old mother from Coleraine cried uncontrollably as she was handed a 60 hours Community Service Order.
Throughout the hearing Kearney had sat rocking backwards and forwards, continually wiping away tears and covering her ears with her hands.
But Antrim Crown Court was told that her despair was "but a glimmer when compared to the shocking and catastrophic loss of the Farrelly family".
The 42-year-old biker's widow Jude Farrelly, a mother-of-two, was present outside the courtroom, and the Farrelly family later released a statement urging drivers to take more care on the roads.
"Eamon loved motorcycling. We just want people to be aware and to look twice, especially with the lighter evenings," the family said.
"This was a low-impact accident but it has caused devastation for the whole family and we don't want anybody else to go through this."
Last month Kearney, from Loughanhill Park, pleaded guilty to causing the death of Mr Farrelly by driving carelessly on the M2 off-slip of the Ballymena Road on July 8, 2013.
The Belfast man died as a result of the injuries he received in a three-vehicle collision involving his motorbike, a lorry and Kearney's Vauxhall Zafira car at the Dunsilly off-slip on the northbound lane of the motorway.
Yesterday the court heard how Kearney and Mr Farrelly had both been enjoying a "family-orientated" summer day, with Kearney returning home from a day out at Belfast Zoo and Mr Farrelly on his way to join his wife and daughter for a few days away on the north coast.
Prosecuting QC Jackie Orr described how Kearney's car was behind Mr Farrelly's Yamaha motorbike with a Scania lorry in the lane beside them. It appeared that Kearney had bumped into the rear of the motorbike believing it had pulled out of the junction, knocking Mr Farrelly off to the left and into the lane where the lorry was pulling out.
According to a forensic expert, Kearney's speed at the point of impact was likely to have been between five "and at the very most" 10mph, said the lawyer.
Mr McCrudden declared that in 40 years at the Bar, "I have never, never come across or acted for a client who was so consumed with grief and upset at what has happened.
"No words of mine can possibly assuage or diminish the grief and the pain of the Farrelly family," said the lawyer. He described the case as a "tragedy of the utmost sadness and represents the single most devastating and dreadful life-changing event".
He accepted however that Kearney's anguish is "but a glimmer when compared to the shocking and catastrophic loss of the Farrelly family", adding that he had been expressly instructed to offer her "genuine regret and sadness and sorrow for what happened in the twinkling of an eye".
Imposing the community service order, Judge Desmond Marrinan said his view was that it "would be cruel" to send her to prison as "this unfortunate young woman will have to live with the consequences of this for a long time".
Kearney was also banned from driving for a year but will not have to resit her test.