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Enda Dolan's dad in call for life sentences for killer drivers

By Rachel Martin

The father of a hit-and-run victim has challenged the Executive to beat Westminster to the punch and increase the maximum sentence for killer drivers.

Drivers in Britain who cause death could soon face a life sentence under new powers to be granted to courts.

But road users in Northern Ireland are likely to have to wait much longer for the Assembly to bring in the changes here, despite previous promises to review sentencing.

Under the proposed changes, dangerous drivers who cause death would face the same maximum life sentence as those charged with manslaughter. The current upper limit is 14 years. However, the new legislation will only apply in England and Wales, as justice is a devolved matter.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Peter Dolan urged the Executive to be the first to change the law.

Mr Dolan's 18-year-old son Enda was killed as he walked back to his room at Queen's University's student village in October 2014.

Mr Dolan added that there also needed to be a minimum sentence introduced for dangerous drivers who kill on the roads.

"Hopefully, somewhere along the line, the punishment will fit the crime," he said.

"Judges need to use the sentences they have the power to hand out, too. We need to ask why no one has ever been given the maximum sentence - what exactly does someone need to do to get the full 14 years?"

Enda's killer, David Lee Stewart, from Gray's Park Avenue in south Belfast, had drugs in his system and drove with the teenager on his van roof for about 800 yards before stopping.

His passenger, 21-year-old William Ross Casement, who was drinking with Stewart in the hours leading up to the collision, got out of the van when Enda's body fell off the roof.

However, after looking at the fatally injured teenager he got back in, and Stewart drove off before crashing further up the road. Stewart was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison and the same amount of time on licence.

Mr Dolan said he felt "disgusted" by the lenient sentence, and said hearing it handed down brought back much of the pain of his son's death.

He added: "The law needs to be changed before any other families have to go through the same thing.

"This won't bring Enda back and won't do anything to help our situation, but if we can make it so other families don't have to go through the same it will be one positive thing. It was a traumatic experience to have to hear that sentence passed down - you wouldn't wish it on any other family - it's a big blow and a bitter pill to swallow. But the hardest part is not having our son come through the door."

Mr Dolan met Justice Minister Claire Sugden in June to call for tougher sentencing.

He added: "The elected representatives in Northern Ireland now need to concentrate and push to increase the sentences for crimes of this nature - that needs to be agreed and resolved as soon as possible.

"Politicians in England are now working on it too. Let them follow suit and get it passed in Northern Ireland first."

Mr Dolan has previously campaigned for the maximum jail term for causing death by dangerous driving to be increased from 14 years to 20 years.

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