Belfast Telegraph

Family's fury at killer driver's bid to have her sentence cut

BY ALAN ERWIN

The family of a man killed by a mother-of-four who was more than twice above the drink-drive limit say they are angered she appealed against her prison sentence, but relieved it was rejected.

Setting out reasons for dismissing Patricia McGrade's bid to have her jail term reduced, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said circumstances were outweighed by the need to deter others.

The classroom assistant (39) was ordered to serve 18 months of a three-year sentence in prison for causing the death of Kevan Hughes by careless driving.

She had been behind the wheel of a Vauxhall Vectra which swerved and crashed into the victim's Toyota Yaris in Co Tyrone in October 2011.

Mr Hughes (33) died from injuries inflicted in the collision near his home on Dooish Road, between Drumquin and Dromore.

McGrade, from Lettergash Road, Dromore, pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving with excess alcohol.

She appealed the sentence, claiming it was manifestly excessive and wrong in principle.

Her lawyers argued that the trial judge departed from an agreed factual basis for the plea by concluding that her account of having drunk two bottles of beer was wholly inadequate and self-serving.

The challenge also focused on the impact imprisonment was having on her family.

But judges in the Court of Appeal backed the sentence imposed after stressing McGrade was guilty of "a bad piece of driving".

Sir Declan pointed to the maximum 14-year sentence for those who cause death by careless driving having consumed alcohol, saying this reflected the legislative policy of severe punishment.

He stated that the extent to which McGrade was over the limit required a stiff sentence.

Refusing her appeal, Sir Declan added: "Where a sentence has a clear deterrent, purpose personal circumstances will not weigh as heavily as they might in other circumstances. The applicant was entitled to credit for her plea, her remorse and previous good character.

"We do not consider, however, that in the circumstances a determinate custodial sentence of three years was other than appropriate."

Mr Hughes' brother Declan told the Belfast Telegraph the sentences handed out to drink-drivers must be toughened up in Northern Ireland.

"We are relieved," he said. "We were angry at how the judge had come to the decision for it then to be deemed not fair.

"It sends out the message you can go out and kill somebody drink-driving and it is not that big a deal.

"You can't be happy with somebody doing that and then serving so little time. We need to build in a deterrent."

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