Belfast Telegraph

'Boy racer' who killed couple after losing control of car is jailed for 14 months

Prison: Charles Macartney
Prison: Charles Macartney

By Paul Higgins

A self-proclaimed boy racer who killed a husband and wife while speeding as fast as he could has been jailed for 14 months.

Charles Hugh Macartney (20) was also ordered to spend a further 14 months on supervised licence and banned from driving for five years for causing the deaths of Dean and Sandra Weir.

The couple were on their way from their home in Portavogie, Co Down, on March 17, 2017 to meet friends in Dublin when Macartney lost control of his Nissan Micra and crashed into their Suzuki Alto.

Macartney, from Manse Court in Newtownards, was sentenced at Newtownards Crown Court yesterday, where Judge Geoffrey Millar QC said excess speed was "clearly the central feature" to the accident.

He said: "It's a sad fact that day and daily young men - 17, 18, 19, 20 - get behind the wheels of cars and believe that by virtue of their age and lack of life experience, they're invincible and believe that they can control their own destiny, can control the vehicles that they drive and that there are no consequences. The events of the morning of St Patrick's Day 2017 tell a different and sad story."

Outlining details of the accident, prosecuting counsel Laura Ievers said a dash-cam seized from Macartney's car showed he was driving at almost 90mph when he lost control going around a bend on Dunover Road, Ballywalter, just before 9am on the day in question.

She said it had been raining, the road was wet and there was "standing water" in the lead-up to the point of impact.

Macartney lost control of the Micra as he negotiated a right-hand bend, his car striking the kerb and grass verge, spinning twice before it impacted into the Weirs' car, which was travelling in the opposite direction.

Mr Weir (52) died at the scene. His wife Sandra (51) passed away a month later as a result of a pulmonary embolism (deep vein thrombosis) caused by the leg and rib fractures she sustained in the crash.

Heartbreakingly, she died in the arms of the couple's daughter Katie, their only child.

Ms Ievers described how the downloaded footage from the dash-cam was examined by a forensic expert who reported the Micra was travelling at 89mph as it approached the bend and around 79mph when Macartney lost control.

A speed of 89mph, said the lawyer, "was about the maximum speed such a car could achieve".

The expert estimated that at the point of impact Macartney was travelling at 68mph - still above the 60mph limit.

She added there was no evidence of drink or drugs involved, both cars had been "well maintained" and there were warning signs illustrating to drivers they were approaching a bend with a 'Slow' marking in the road.

"There were no witnesses to the collision but the defendant did make a significant statement to a police officer that he had been driving quite fast causing the car to spin," said Ms Ievers.

Interviewed a few weeks after the incident having suffered a spinal fracture himself, Macartney initially gave a "no comment" interview on legal advice but later "made full admissions to causing the collision and that the driving was dangerous".

"The defendant was asked about stickers on the car and comments on Facebook about being a boy racer but he said it was intended as a joke because the car he was driving was considered to be a 'granny shopping car'," she said.

Macartney claimed he didn't appreciate the "potential consequences" but did tell officers he was "truly sorry for the deceased's family".

At arraignment Macartney pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of causing death by careless driving and it was only in the lead-up to his impending trial the charges were put to him again and he confessed to killing the couple by dangerous driving.

Defence counsel Stephen Toal said Macartney will carry his guilt "for the rest of his life and will always deeply regret the loss of life to the Weir family".

He added that Macartney had a completely clear record, there were no issues with alcohol or drugs and there were references that he had "helped others throughout his young life".

Jailing Macartney, Judge Millar said a custodial sentence "is both appropriate and necessary...to act as a deterrent".

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