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Teenager jailed for three years over crash that claimed life of best friend

By John Cassidy

Published 01/07/2016

Conal Daly who died in the crash
Conal Daly who died in the crash

A west Belfast youth has been jailed for three years for killing his best friend and seriously injuring a nun while driving a 'runaround' car at speeds of up to 100mph.

Jailing the 17-year-old at Downpatrick Crown Court, Judge Piers Grant described the defendant's driving as "appalling".

He said it had "seriously affected the next of kin of the deceased" Conal Daly and had caused his family "enormous grief and suffering".

Mr Daly, also from west Belfast, was a back seat passenger in the 'runaround' Jaguar car which crashed at speed into a vehicle being driven by a Catholic nun.

But the court was told the nun "harboured no anger or bitterness" towards the juvenile.

The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had pleaded guilty to causing the death of Mr Daly almost two years ago on the Saintfield Road in Carryduff and causing grievous bodily injury by dangerous driving to Sister of Mercy nun Josephine McAteer.

He further pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, two counts of assault on police and causing criminal damage to a PSNI vehicle.

All the offences were committed on October 16, 2014 on roads between junction of the Ravenhill Road/Ormeau Road roundabout and the Saintfield Road in Co Down.

Prosecution counsel Charles McCreanor QC said the defendant was the driver of the Jaguar car which had driven into Belfast along the Ormeau Road after coming in from the Saintfield Road in Carryduff.

The prosecutor said that as the juvenile was driving at around 75mph along the Saintfield Road towards Belfast he had a "near-miss collision" with a BMW car which was exiting from Brackenvale Service Station.

The court heard that police were "already on the lookout" for the Jaguar and eventually spoke to the driver at the roundabout at the junction of the Ravenhill Road and Ormeau Road as it headed country bound out of Belfast.

Police followed the vehicle "with sirens on and lights flashing" and after initially losing the Jaguar car in the Forestside area of Upper Galwally, the car was detected by other police officers who had joined the pursuit in a bid to stop it.

As the car rounded a bend on the "wrong side" of the Carryduff Road, it collided head on into a Volkswagen Polo being driven by Sister of Mercy nun Josephine McAteer.

Mr McCreanor QC said that the defendant's average speed over the space of 3.4 miles from the roundabout in south Belfast to the crash scene was 72mph. He said the driver had covered that distances in just two minutes and 49 seconds.

But he added that his speed was "100mph at times" as he drove through speed limits of 30, 40 and 50mph zones out of Belfast and into Carryduff.

The court heard Conal Daly was a rear seat passenger in the car but was not wearing his seat belt at the time of the collision. He died of "several multiple injuries".

Passing sentence, Judge Piers Grant said: "Taking all the aggravating and mitigating factors into consideration, the appropriate sentence will be one of six years on count one of causing death by dangerous driving of Mr Daly."

He added that the defendant would receive six years for causing grievous bodily injury to Sister McAteer, three years for dangerous driving and six months each for two counts of assault police and causing criminal damage to a PSNI vehicle. Stating that all the sentences would run concurrently, Judge Grant told the court: "The global determinate sentence is one of six years. He will spend three years in custody and three years on licence."

The judge also banned the juvenile from driving for seven years and said he would have to take the extended driver's test.

Belfast Telegraph

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