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Stop the cuts to Victim Support, says mum given help to meet the drink-driver who killed her daughter

By Donna Deeney

Published 06/07/2016

Claire Kelly, who was killed in a car crash in 2011
Claire Kelly, who was killed in a car crash in 2011

The mother of a young woman killed by a drink-driver has spoken of how she confronted him one-on-one with the help of Victim Support.

Denise McAuley’s daughter, Claire Kelly, was just 20 when she lost her life in a car being driven by man who was under the influence of alcohol.

Student Claire was a backseat passenger in the vehicle, which the police spotted doing handbrake turns on the road into Feeny, Co Londonderry, in December 2011.

The car later crashed and Claire was fatally injured.

Kevin Brolly, from Rannyglass in Dungiven, was 23 when he pleaded guilty in 2012 at Londonderry Crown Court to causing the death of Ms Kelly by careless driving, drink-driving and driving without insurance. He was jailed for three years.

Despite the sentence, Ms McAuley was left frustrated because she had many unanswered questions about her daughter’s tragic death.

It was only when she contacted Victim Support that she was able to find a way forward.

Speaking as a new hub for the charity was opened in Londonderry yesterday, Ms McAuley  urged Stormont not to cut back on its funding.

“After Claire was killed, I was handed a bunch of leaflets, including one about Victim Support, but I was in no state at the time to look at any leaflet,” she said.

“I was just so traumatised. I was a complete washout and couldn’t think straight.

“When it came to the court case, I had so many questions that I needed answers to, but I felt I was completely isolated. It was like being in limbo, and no one was really interested in how I was feeling.

“My mother eventually suggested I contact Victim Support, and the minute I did that everything changed for me. “They were on my side, they were by my side and they helped me get the answers I needed.”

Even with the help of Victim Support, however, Denise was still left with questions about her daughter’s death that were not answered in court. She came to believe that only a meeting with the driver of the car would give her a degree of peace of mind.

Victim Support arranged the meeting through the restorative justice programme at Magilligan Prison.

“I realised there was only one person who could answer the questions about the crash, and that was the driver of the car,” Ms McAuley explained.

“But so many things had to fall into place to make that possible.

“Magilligan prison was a part of the restorative justice programme, and the driver was just as keen to meet me as I was to meet him.

“With the help and support of Victim Support, I had a face-to-face meeting with the driver of the car.

“He told me he was sorry and would do anything to take back what had happened that day.

“He was really honest with me and he didn’t shy away from what I asked, which means that I was finally able to get a degree of acceptance of what had happened.

“Being a victim of any crime is a dreadful thing, and I would have no hesitation in recommending anyone who does find themselves in that position to contact Victim Support.

“The work they do is quite simply essential, and rather than having cuts to their budget, the Department of Justice should protect the service and give them enough funds to allow them to meet the demands they face every day.”

The charity’s new hub in Derry will provide emotional support and practical help to victims of crime in Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh and Antrim.

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