Belfast Telegraph

Facing jail... man whose runaway car crushed tot to death in pram after he failed to fully engage the handbrake

BY PAUL HIGGINS

A driver whose car killed a two-year-old boy when it rolled down a hill because he hadn't fully pulled the handbrake has been warned to expect time in prison.

Darren Conway (32) appeared at Downpatrick Crown Court where he was to have been sentenced over the death of Rham Gavriel Alvarez in Dundonald.

The sentencing was adjourned until next week. Judge Piers Grant said the Bangor man still faces jail.

The judge said that while not fully pulling the handbrake of a car was comparatively minor, "the consequences are absolutely catastrophic".

Releasing Conway on bail until next Wednesday, the judge said it was a "difficult" case but that his release "does not mean that you will not necessarily receive a custodial sentence... you are not guaranteed that you will not receive a custodial sentence".

Having flown back from the Philippines to be in court, Rham's mother Imelda wept in the public gallery as Judge Grant said: "It is well recognised there is no penalty the court can impose that will bring this young child back to life and will do little to affect or assuage the terrible grief on the part of the family."

Conway, a shop fitter from Rutherglen Gardens in Bangor, last month pleaded guilty to causing Rham's death by careless driving on December 29, 2012.

The jury heard how Rham's mother was pushing his buggy along the Comber Road in Dundonald on a "blustery" afternoon when Conway's Volkswagen Golf "careered" into them, wedging the pram and her between the rear bumper and a fence.

The car had silently rolled backwards from the Limetree Residential Home and across the busy road, missing all the other traffic. It crashed into the buggy, causing injuries to the little boy which proved fatal.

Conway had been at the nursing home visiting his grandfather when he parked his car, smoked a cigarette and then went inside. He knew nothing of what happened until he "heard a commotion" outside, telling a witness at the scene that he must have forgotten to put the handbrake on.

The VW Golf was examined by a forensic engineer who found that of the 13 possible notches of tension, Conway had lifted the handbrake just two clicks, and it was the Crown case that failing to fully engage the handbrake on his car Conway had made an "obviously careless mistake" which had devastating consequences.

Defence lawyer Chris Holmes said Conway "cannot go enough to say how sorry he is".

"I can only again stress his total and utter distraction to the sense of his... words fail him," said the lawyer in an impassioned plea.

"There is nothing that can be said which will in anyway help them – if he could, he would."

Mr Holmes added that while there was testimony to the grief and effect on Conway, "he knows that his own suffering is not comparable in any way" and that standing before the court as a guilty man, Conway issued a "heartfelt apology to the family".

Adjourning for a week, Judge Grant said he wanted to reflect on the case before sentencing.

BACKGROUND

Rham Gavriel Alvarez (2) suffered severe injuries when the pram his mother Imelda was pushing was struck by a car on the Comber Road in Dundonald in December 2012.

The mother and son were struck by a Volkswagon Golf belonging to Darren Conway and then pinned up against a fence.

The car had silently rolled backwards from the Limetree Residential Home and across the busy road, missing other traffic.

It crashed into the buggy and Rham later died of his injuries. Conway had been at the nursing home visiting his grandfather when he parked his car, smoked a cigarette and then went inside.

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