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Co Down man jailed for 21 months after he killed driver in high-speed collision


25-year-old Neil Walsh caused the death of Norman McNally by driving dangerously on the Comber Road in Ballygowan on 20 June 2018

25-year-old Neil Walsh caused the death of Norman McNally by driving dangerously on the Comber Road in Ballygowan on 20 June 2018

25-year-old Neil Walsh caused the death of Norman McNally by driving dangerously on the Comber Road in Ballygowan on 20 June 2018

A Co Down gardener was on Friday jailed for 21 months after he killed a driver in a 80 mph collision.

Neil Walsh (26) pleaded guilty to causing the death by dangerous driving of 60-year-old Norman McNally on the Comber Road, Ballygowan, on June 20, 2018.

At Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, Walsh was told he would serve a further 21 months on licence on his release from prison. He also received a four-year driving ban.

Before he was sentenced on Friday, defence counsel Charles MacCreanor QC told Judge Geoffrey Miller QC that Walsh, of Prospect Park, Ballygowan, accepted he was going to prison.

Said Mr MacCreanor: "This defendant is before you to be punished, to be punished for the serious failure of his driving on this road. He is to be punished for the life he has taken.

"He knows that Your Honour is going to impose a custodial sentence upon him. He also knows that that does not compare to the loss which has been suffered.''

In written submissions, the prosecution said that on Wednesday evening, June 20, 2018, Norman McNally was driving his silver Proton Persona car to his home in Downpatrick via Comber.

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Walsh had parked his black BMW 5 series car at the Texaco filling station on the Saintfield Road in Ballygowan beside a Volkswagen Golf car driven by his ex-girlfriend.

CCTV footage recovered by police showed the Golf driving off from the garage followed by the BMW.

From the footage, a forensic scientist estimated that over a distance of 61 metres on the 30 mph Comber Road, the BMW was travelling at an average speed of 67 mph, the Golf at 56 mph.

Test runs showed that the accelerator pedal on the BMW had to be "fully or almost fully depressed'' to hit this speed.

One motorist said he saw the BMW overtake and then "drive side-by-side'' with the Golf.

Other witnesses told police of hearing a car "driving at high speed'' before the sound of the collision.

The rear of Mr McNally's car was found lodged against a wall and the driver's side "extremely badly damaged....the deceased was unresponsive''.

"The defendant's BMW car was balanced on a small garden wall, with the nose of the car in the garden, and it had dislodged a 30 mph road sign,'' said the prosecution.

A paramedic crew came across the scene shortly after the collision around 8.50 pm and said there was "still smoke and dust in the air''.

Mr McNally, a qualified mechanic, was pronounced dead at 9.04 pm and fire crews had to cut him free.

Walsh told a paramedic that "the other car came around the corner on the wrong side of the road''.

He told police at the scene: "Was coming out of Ballygowan going round the corner and the car was sitting just in the middle of the road and I hit him.''

Experts said the Proton was in its own lane and hit at a speed of 80.2 mph - 50 mph above the road speed limit.

In February 2019, Walsh was caught by police using his mobile phone while driving and received a fixed penalty notice.

In 2016, Walsh was fined £100 and received three penalty points for speeding.

In a victim impact statement, Colin McNally described his brother as a "role model, a friend and a mentor....a thoroughly decent man who enjoyed the simple things in life.

"We miss him so much. His loss has changed our lives a lot, as if something has been ripped from us.''

In a pre-sentence report, Walsh expressed his "shame and remorse'' for causing Mr McNally's death.

Passing sentence, Judge Miller told Walsh that cars are "potentially lethal weapons'', adding: "On this evening, you were indulging in risk-taking behaviour in an effort to show off to your former girlfriend.''

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