Belfast Telegraph

Australia offender scheme is inspired by NI mother’s meeting with killer driver

By Gareth Cross

A Northern Ireland mother who met and forgave the drink-driver who killed her daughter has inspired a new Australian justice scheme.

Claire Kelly, a 20-year-old student, died following a crash in 2011.

It occurred on Old Glenshane Road near Claudy, Co Londonderry, just before Christmas 2011, when the car she was a passenger in left the road and overturned.

Kevin Brolly pleaded guilty to causing her death by careless driving and driving with excess alcohol. He also admitted driving dangerously and without insurance.

Ms Kelly was from Dungiven, Co Derry.

Brolly was sentenced to three years in prison.

Ms Kelly's mother Denise McAuley visited him in jail in the hope of getting some answers surrounding her daughter's death.

According to the BBC, Australian authorities decided to set up a scheme for offenders to meet their victims after the former Attorney General of Victoria heard Mrs McAuley speak at a conference in Belfast.

"He (Brolly) wanted to see me face to face and to tell me everything," Mrs McAuley told the BBC.

"I went up, shook his hand, gave him that confidence.

"And by shaking his hand I was hoping to befriend a friend of my daughter's.

"I told him I wished it had have been him who died. He wished that too."

Mrs McAuley said she also gave Brolly permission to visit her daughter's grave.

"I had no problem, he was a friend of Claire's," she said.

"I could see and feel his pain. He told me that Claire was never on her own, there was always police or ambulance staff with her."

Former governor of Magilligan Prison David Eagleson said it tried to give offenders the opportunity to meet their victims when possible.

"These are very sensitive meetings and need to be handled with great care, but the outcomes have been very positive and people find they get their questions answered," he explained.

"Many offenders genuinely are remorseful and want to make some sort of reparations.

"It's not unknown for offenders to approach authorities and ask to meet their victim, and if appropriate, and everyone agrees, it can be facilitated.

"It can help everyone involved."

Mr Eagleson will tell Mrs McAuley's story at a conference to be staged in Canada next week.

Belfast Telegraph

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