Belfast Telegraph

Mother who caused death of pensioner in three-car pile-up walks free after sentence suspended

BY MICHAEL DONNELLY

A mother who caused a three-car pile-up in which a 71-year-old pensioner was killed and her own 12-year-old son was seriously injured, has walked free from court.

Sylvia Ann Stevenson avoided jail after her 12-month sentence was suspended for three years.

Stevenson, from Riverdale in Kilkeel, Co Down admitted causing the death of Kevin McEvoy by her undue care and attention whilst driving along the Newry to Killkeel road on August 16, 2011.

Prosecution lawyer Geraldine McCullough had told an earlier hearing that Stevenson's black Nissan Quashqai 4x4 had smashed headlong into Mr McEvoy's Toyota Aventis, which was then forced into the front of a Volkswagen Sharan carrying a family.

Judge Kevin Finnegan QC told 49-year-old Stevenson, who was also banned from driving for a year, that while the period of her inattention was short, less than two seconds, "the consequences were enormous".

The Newry Crown Court judge said that apart from the tragic death of Mr McEvoy, the only aggravating feature put forward was the extensive injuries to Stevenson's own son, who suffered a ruptured spleen.

Judge Finnegan said that this was an added punishment for her to bear and he had no doubt that this and the fact her careless driving caused a pensioner's death, "will remain with her for the rest of her days".

Judge Finnegan said the death of Mr McEvoy was not forgotten by the court, which offfered its sympathy.

He added that it was often said that no sentence or punishment could restore a human life nor measure the worth of that life.

As to the cause of the accident, the judge said of the three theories put forward, the first – that Stevenson was momentarily distracted by an exchange of words with her son – was probably the most accurate.

However, no definitive cause was put forward by either the prosecution or the defence.

In the aftermath of the crash, one of the women in the Sharan – an off-duty policewoman – took control of the situation, while another passer-by administered first aid.

However, their efforts and those of the emergency services to resuscitate Mr McEvoy, from Glenloughran Road in Kilkeel, failed.

Ms McCullough said the driver of the Sharan described how as Stevenson's jeep drove towards her, "it suddenly pulled across the road" and into the path of Mr McEvoy's Toyota "no more than a few feet away from us".

"There was no obstruction in the roadway either on the jeep's side of the road, or ours, and I don't know why she pulled over onto our side so suddenly," said the lawyer, reading from a statement.

A split second later, the driver screamed a warning to her mother and passengers as she slammed on the brakes, only for Mr McEvoy's Toyota to smash into the front of her car, such was the force of impact from Stevenson.

Defence lawyer Michael Duffy said that the family of Mr McEvoy were clearly upset by his death and the apparent indifference of Stevenson, but that he wanted to reassure them nothing was further from the truth.

The lawyer revealed that Stevenson had wanted to approach or even write to them to express her remorse, but had not done so on his advice.

Mr Duffy also said that Stevenson's partner had wanted to attend the funeral, but again, on legal advice, had not done so.

Stevenson, he added, was remorseful and disturbed at the consequences of her actions, and that level and depth of remorse could be seen from the pre-sentence report on her.

Stevenson, said Mr Duffy, had cooperated fully with police and was a person of good character, with no previous criminal record.

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