A life sentence for tragic Enda's family
The searing pain being endured every hour of every day by the family of a young Tyrone student killed by a drunken driver is evident in every eloquent and moving word spoken by his father after the driver and his passenger were sentenced in court yesterday.
Consider just his conclusion: "The missed family celebrations, the Christmases, the family holidays, the 21st birthday he won't have, the exams he never sat, the graduation never attended, the engagement, the wedding, the grandchildren that will never be. That is our life sentence."
Will those who mowed down Enda Dolan and left him to die on the roadside ever read those words or ever take heed of them? For that is the reality of their actions.
A promising student, much loved, talented musician and artist, Enda should have been looking forward to a great career and a fulfilled life. But he was robbed of all those milestones outlined by his father by a man who had consumed enough drink to put him three times over the legal limit.
Little wonder that the family are bitter. They feel they have not got justice. The driver was jailed for seven years, but will only serve half of that and will be out even sooner because of time already served on remand. The rest of the sentence will be served on licence.
The passenger in the vehicle, who saw Enda lying on the roadside after being hit and who encouraged the driver to leave the scene, got 50 hours' community service and two years' probation.
While Mr Dolan's description of the justice system as a disgrace reflects the family's anger at the sentences, he makes a valid point that many other families have felt equally disappointed and disgusted by sentences passed in the courts.
Of course, judges are bound by sentencing guidelines and must take into account both mitigating and aggravating factors. Yet it is difficult to imagine a worst case of causing death by dangerous driving.
Enda was carried 800 yards on the roof of the vehicle before it came to a stop and then the driver and his passenger drove off before crashing again. Mercifully, no one else was in their path.
Many people might think that this is a proper case for referral to the Court of Appeal, to determine if at least one of the sentences was appropriate to the offence.
But nothing can ever ease the life sentence being endured by Enda's grieving family. They have no court to appeal to.