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Killer driver Kurtis Armstrong wants licence back 12 years after causing deaths of Graeme Waring, Ian Currie, Philip McMurray and Joseph McDonald

By Nevin Farrell

Published 29/01/2016

Kurtis Armstrong arrives at court yesterday
Kurtis Armstrong arrives at court yesterday
The scene of the accident near Ligoniel in 2004
Graeme Waring
Ian Currie
Philip McMurray
Joseph McDonald

A man jailed for seven years after one of the worst car crashes in Northern Ireland has applied to get his licence back early.

Kurtis Armstrong (31) was banned from driving in 2008 after killing four friends during a lunchtime spin to show off his new car in 2004.

Now, with his jail sentence served, Armstrong has applied for a new licence, even though the ban is not due to end until 2020.

Jailing him, judge David Smyth QC told a then 23-year-old Armstrong it was regrettable he would not accept responsibility for the deaths of his friends, Graeme Waring (17), Ian Currie (18), and 19-year-olds Philip McMurray and Joseph McDonald.

The victims, all students at the Lisburn Institute of Higher and Further Education, died when the speeding Corsa SRI driven by Armstrong smashed into trees, uprooting one of them, before landing on its roof.

Yesterday, Armstrong, of Ivy Hill on the outskirts of Lisburn, returned to Antrim Crown Court, where he had been convicted of four counts of causing death by dangerous driving.

He was accompanied by his father and his lawyer to make an application for a licence. The grounds were given as he was "no longer in custody and had served in excess of half of the disqualification". However, the application was adjourned until February because a breakdown in communications meant a representative for PSNI legal services was not present.

Judge Desmond Marrinan QC said a case of such seriousness needed a lawyer to represent the State, and accepted there had been a misunderstanding.

He added he had received a letter from Armstrong's father in which it was said that his son was the only one of his five children to show an interest in the family business, which is understood to be a limousine hire company that provides vehicles for events including school formals.

The judge said when the case next came to court he would like to know more about the business as Armstrong may have to drive for it as part of any work.

He added that among the matters to be considered was the effect that the driving disqualification had on Armstrong, who now has a family.

When the killer driver was sentenced, Leslie Currie, the father of one of the victims, spoke out on behalf of the bereaved families.

Mr Currie said at the time that their "grief and anguish has been compounded at times by the apparent reluctance of the driver to assume any responsibility or express any remorse". However, Mr Currie also added that the families were more than satisfied by the sentence and could see that "justice has been done".

"We think it is appropriate that the full rigour of the law has been applied in this case," he noted.

Judge David Smyth had said that the day of the accident, February 24, 2004, was "a Tuesday no different from any other".

He described how a speeding Armstrong lost control of the vehicle as it went up Wolf Hill in Ligoniel and down Ballyhill Road near Belfast.

The Corsa flew through the air after it crossed a verge then "impacted with the field a short distance from trees and collided with them".

"One stump took the passenger door off," the judge said. "One tree was uprooted and fractured and one tree had its bark de-brided. The car's rotation altered but it continued into the next field where it came to rest on its roof."

He added that Armstrong survived "no doubt because of the fact that the first impact occurred on the passenger side".

The defendant went on to give conflicting accounts, claiming he was only diving at 45mph, and even tried to blame one of his passengers for the crash.

But judge Smyth said there had been two main causes - speed and the dangerous manner in which the overladen car was being driven by Armstrong.

He also rejected the defendant's claims of driving within the speed limit, saying: "If he had been doing that speed, this accident would not have occurred."

He told Armstrong that had the accident occurred three days later, when the maximum sentence was raised from 10 to 14 years, he would have been jailed for "eight, possibly nine years".

Outside the courtroom yesterday, Armstrong - who was wearing a grey suit, white shirt and black tie - declined to comment to the Press.

Belfast Telegraph

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