Enda Dolan: This punishment is nowhere near enough for sheer obscenity of crime
What is a young man's life worth? That's not something you can ever quantify, but it has to be more than the three-and-a-half years that David Lee Stewart will serve in jail for killing 18-year-old student Enda Dolan. Off his head on an excess of drink and drugs, Stewart (31) mowed Enda down as he walked along the Malone Road in south Belfast.
Enda had just started at Queen's, studying architecture, and he was heading back to his halls at Queen's Elms. Stewart mounted the kerb and hit him so hard that the young man was flipped on to the roof of the car, breaking his neck, but Stewart kept on driving for another 800 metres before stopping.
Then it seems that Stewart's passenger, William Ross Casement, got out, looked at Enda's broken body lying hunched on the road, then got back into the car, whereupon Stewart drove off again, eventually mangling his car around a lamp-post further down the Malone Road. Stewart was handed a seven-year sentence, but he was told that he will serve only half of that time in prison, with the remaining three-and-a-half years spent on supervised licence.
For his part in the deadly rampage, 21-year-old Casement was given 50 hours' community service and two years on probation. He was also banned from driving for 12 months.
It is not enough. Judges are bound by sentencing guidelines, but this looks like extraordinary leniency. Three-and-a-half years in prison for one man, and for the other just two days' worth of community service, with the loss of his driving licence for one year?
No, it is nowhere near enough for the gross obscenity of these men's actions, in robbing Enda of his one precious life, in robbing the Dolan family of their lovely son.
All that vibrant talent, all that hope, all that potential for the future: wiped out in an instant by a boozed-up waster.
Where is the remorse? Where is the justice, commensurate with such terrible devastation?
Judge Kerr told the court that "no sentence can ever reflect the pain and suffering of all who knew and loved this young man". But the brevity of the sentencing has added to the Dolan family's already excruciating, unimaginable pain.
Their agony has been exacerbated by a terrible, helpless sense of anger at the legal system and its apparent disregard for victims' families.
The Dolans say that they are suffering their own life sentence: "The missed family celebrations, the Christmases, the family holidays, the 21st birthday he won't have, the exams that he never sat, the graduation never attended, the engagement, the wedding, the grandchildren that will never be."
The very least society should offer them is a punishment for Enda's killer that is in keeping with the enormous scale of their loss.