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Enda Dolan: Demand tougher jail term for killer driver, prosecutors urged

Pressure builds on top legal official to appeal punishment handed down to drunk driver who killed student Enda Dolan amid growing anger at meagre three-and-a-half year term

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 29/04/2016

Student Enda Dolan was killed as he walked back to Queen’s Elms village
Student Enda Dolan was killed as he walked back to Queen’s Elms village
Enda Dolan with his girlfriend Sarah Graham before their school formal
Enda on the couch with all of his younger siblings
A portrait of the family together
Enda Dolan playing the guitar on stage at his old school

Prosecutors have been asked to appeal the sentence given to a driver who mowed down a Co Tyrone student after a drink and drugs binge.

It comes amid growing anger over the three-and-a-half year prison term imposed on David Lee Stewart.

Stewart had consumed six pints of beer and four Jagerbombs and had taken drugs when he killed 18-year-old Enda Dolan in October 2014.

William Ross Casement (21), who was a passenger in the car with Stewart in the accident, escaped a custodial term.

The Dolan family said they were "disappointed and disgusted" at the sentences.

A decision on whether to refer the matter to the Court of Appeal will now be taken by Barra McGrory, Northern Ireland's chief prosecutor.

Yesterday, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) confirmed it had been asked to investigate.

A PPS spokesperson said: "The PPS can confirm that we have received correspondence outlining concerns over the sentences passed in this case.

"The matters raised will be examined carefully in line with our protocols around unduly lenient sentences in the Crown Court."

It is understood that the request did not come from the Dolan family.

Meanwhile, victims joined with road safety campaigners and politicians to demand tougher penalties.

Mary Hughes, whose brother Kevan died after a drunk driver hit his car, said she understood the Dolan family's anger.

"Our justice system will never change, and it always ends up being about the defendant and not the victim - that's the sad thing," she added.

Mr Hughes (33) passed away after a car driven by Patricia McGrade crashed into his vehicle at Dooish Road in Dromore in October 2011.

McGrade was more than twice the legal alcohol limit at the time of the incident.

She was sentenced to three years, with just 18 months' jail time, after pleading guilty to causing death by careless driving with excess alcohol.

Tina Glenn, whose son Simon was killed by a drunk driver, also expressed anger. Mr Glenn (26), from Strabane, died and his mother, girlfriend and three-year-old niece were seriously injured in the crash in April 2011.

Conor Breen, who was 19 at the time of the smash, was behind the wheel of a Jeep when it collided with the car on Doogary Road in Omagh.

Breen had been driven home from a pub but walked back to collect his car and drive to Omagh to get cigarettes.

Ms Glenn said: "I know how the family will feel because my son was killed by a drunk driver five years ago, and all he served was three years. The justice system stinks here and it's giving the irresponsible the right to drink and drive."

Enda, from Killyclogher in Co Tyrone, was an architecture student at Queen's University.

He had been walking to his student accommodation at Elms Village when a van driven by Stewart mounted a footpath and hit him. Stewart drove on for 800 metres with the teenager on the roof of his vehicle.

The 31-year-old, of Gray's Park Avenue in Belfast, admitted a series of charges linked to the teenager's death, including causing death by dangerous driving.

He will spend three-and-a-half years in prison and the same amount of time on licence. He was also banned from driving for five years.

Outside court, Enda's father, Peter, said Northern Ireland's legal system was "a disgrace".

"We have been left with a life sentence," Mr Dolan added. "So many parents have stood in our shoes... and many more will in the future unless something is done to deter individuals from driving under the influence of drink and drugs."

Road safety campaigners also voiced their anger at the sentences. Gary Rae from the charity Brake said: "We share the disgust of Enda's family at the paltry length of this sentence.

"We must see tougher sentences to fully fit the crime to give families justice and also act as a proper deterrent."

West Tyrone UUP candidate Ross Hussey, a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, said the sentences were too soft.

"I do believe the sentences should have been a lot more severe," he added.

The grounds for increasing a sentence handed down by the courts

The decision on whether to appeal the sentences in the case of Enda Dolan rests with Barra McGrory, Northern Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions.

In certain cases, Mr McGrory has the power to ask the Court of Appeal to review a sentence on the grounds that it is unduly lenient. An application must be made within 28 days from the date the sentence was imposed — in this case by May 25.

If the Court of Appeal agrees that the sentence was unduly lenient, it may increase it. For this to happen, the court has to decide that the sentence falls outside the range that a judge, taking into consideration all relevant factors and having regard to sentencing guidance, could reasonably consider appropriate.

In other words, the sentence must not just be lenient, but must be unduly lenient.

The Court of Appeal has a wide discretion in deciding what to do. It will take into account features which aggravate or mitigate the offence. The court also takes account of the fact that the offender has been put through the sentencing process a second time.

It will not intervene unless the sentence is significantly below the sentence that the judge should have passed — a matter which Mr McGrory must bear in mind when deciding whether to refer a sentence. 

The Court of Appeal will hold a hearing to review the sentence and decide either to quash it and replace it with one it considers more appropriate, or decide that the sentence was within the range permitted and refuse the appeal.

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