Belfast Telegraph

Accident will live with me for rest of my life, says driver who killed farmer Patrick Lively

Nicola Watson leaves Newry Crown Court
Nicola Watson leaves Newry Crown Court

By Paul Higgins

A driver wept in court as her lawyer said the death of the farmer she killed would "live with her for the rest of her life".

Nicola Evelyn Watson (25) repeatedly wiped away tears during the half-hour hearing at Newry Crown Court yesterday.

Watson, of Patrick Street in Newry, was due to be sentenced after she pleaded guilty to causing the death of Patrick Gerard Lively by driving carelessly on the Bryansford Road in Hilltown on August 15, 2016.

Having heard the prosecution opening and a defence plea in mitigation, Judge Gordon Kerr QC freed her on bail and said he would pass sentence next Wednesday once he had considered the guidelines.

Earlier, prosecuting QC Charles MacCreanor described how Mr Lively, a 60-year-old married father-of-two, had just finished preparing a field for baling and was heading home when the accident happened.

Watson, driving a Volkswagen Polo, came up behind his old tractor and started to overtake it on the bend, approaching a crossroads, when Mr Lively turned right, veering across her path, and the two collided.

The impact caused the tractor to topple over, trapping Mr Lively underneath it.

With the victim's family sitting in the gallery, Mr MacCreanor did not fully disclose his injuries but said that their combination "caused his rapid death".

According to a forensic expert, there were no signs warning drivers of the crossroads.

The indicators and the brake lights on the tractor "did not operate" when they were examined after the crash, said Mr MacCreanor.

The lawyer said that at the scene, Watson told another driver, "he turned across me".

When asked by a police, the defendant replied: "I was coming behind him.

"We were both heading the same direction.

"He went to swoop left, but I don't know if he was going left or that was him going right or whether he changed his mind last minute and I didn't have time to slow down and I hit him.

"I don't know what point of the tractor I hit."

During a phone conversation with her boss the day after the tragedy, Watson said: "I'm stupid. There was a tractor in front of me and to me he was veering towards the left as if he was allowing me to overtake him. I didn't think, I just pulled out and thought, 'Oh s*** what have I done? I'm overtaking on a bend'. I just stuck my boot down to get back in and all I remember is 'bang'."

Watson is reported to have told her boss she thought the farmer "was going to tell me off for what I had done, but when I got out I saw that the tractor was on top of him".

Mr MacCreanor told the court speed was not an aggravating factor, with the forensic expert estimating that the car was travelling at around 25mph in a 60mph zone and the tractor at 10 to 15mph.

The lawyer added: "It appears to be a case where there are no aggravating factors that we rely on.

"The matters that we ask the court to consider is that the carelessness of overtaking at a crossroads when approaching a blind bend with a slow-moving vehicle which, on her own account, she wasn't sure which way that vehicle was going."

Defence QC Patrick Lyttle told the court the basis of his plea was that "it's not a case for an immediate custodial sentence", given the lack of aggravating factors and the momentary inattention that caused the tragic accident.

Revealing that Watson went to school with a daughter of her victim, the lawyer said her client had "demonstrated significant remorse and insight" into the consequences of her mistake.

Describing her as a "decent, hard-working individual", Mr Lyttle told the judge that Watson would "never be back before the courts".

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