Father's anger as teenage driver who killed two avoids jail term
The father of a teenager killed in a car crash hit out yesterday after the driver who caused his death was given a suspended sentence.
Gerard Farrell, whose son Eoin was killed on Kilbroney Road in Rostrevor in September 2015, said he was "dumbfounded" that 19-year-old Brian Che Kane walked free from court.
Eoin and James Miskelly, who were both 17, died when Kane lost control of his Volkswagen Bora and it ploughed into an oil tank and boiler house before eventually coming to rest in a field on its roof.
Kane, from St Anne's Park in Mayobridge, pleaded guilty to causing the deaths by driving carelessly. He was sentenced to 12 months, suspended for three years. He was also banned from driving for two years.
Relatives of James and Eoin had packed into the public gallery of Newry Crown Court, sitting in Downpatrick, to hear Judge Paul Ramsey tell Kane "the consequences of your driving proved to be cataclysmic".
He said: "I appreciate this will be of little comfort to the relatives, family and friends of the two dead boys because their boys are gone.
"But there is no doubt that Che Kane will have to live with and carry for the rest of his days the knowledge that he is responsible for causing the deaths of two young men."
Outside the court Gerard Farrell described the sentence as "a joke" and said the past two years had been "an absolute nightmare".
He said: "Its ongoing every day. We have to get on with our lives, go to work and pay our bills and get on. It's not fair. There's nothing there for us. It feels that the Farrells and Miskellys are on trial. The justice system has done nothing for us, absolutely nothing in my eyes. We are all hurting. We miss the boys greatly."
Judges are bound by sentencing guidelines and must take into account mitigating circumstances, such as early guilty pleas, co-operation with police and remorse, as well as aggravating factors such as intent and excessive violence.
Passing sentence, Judge Ramsey told the court that although the emergency services had given a graphic description of the "horrific and confusing scene" they had been confronted with, he would not cause upset to the families by repeating the details.
Kane was also seriously injured, including a broken right arm, and spent over a week in hospital, including four days in the intensive care unit.
Judge Ramsey said: "Two major questions arise from the facts of the tragedy - what caused the car to leave the road with such devastating consequences, and the significance of the defendant's memory loss?"
The judge said there had been much debate over the cause of the crash, but outlined how he had two expert engineer reports which estimated the car was travelling between 37mph and 39mph in the 60mph zone when Kane lost control.
Initially the prosecution expert had put the speed at around 45mph, but the judge said that, as with any expert report, there is an undertaking that conclusions can be looked at again in the light of fresh evidence.
Judge Ramsey said that he could not ignore the expert evidence which said the loss of control was caused by oversteer coupled with low tyre pressure, the relative inexperience of the driver and the camber of the road.
These were "a lethal cocktail of circumstances" which, in his view, given the only aggravating feature was the multiple deaths caused, put Kane's culpability towards the lower end of the scale.
Kane, continued Judge Ramsey, cannot remember the circumstances leading up to the fatal crash, but two reports from consultant neuro-psychologists deemed that to be genuine amnesia, brought about due to the "emotional and mental" stress of the situation.
The judge added that the teenager had expressed genuine "shame, regret and remorse" and is "haunted" that his actions caused the untimely deaths of his two acquaintances.
Turning to James and Eoin, Judge Ramsey said it often appeared to the public that cases focus on the defendant "to the detriment of the victims".
In this case, however, he told the court he had victim impact statements from the boys' parents and siblings which were "without exception eloquent, moving and heartrending."
Indeed, Judge Ramsey said a person would "have to have a heart of stone" not to be moved by what was said about the boys.
He told the court that it was unusual to come across a case where the single aggravating feature was that multiple deaths were caused, with no other features such as excessive speed or alcohol associated with the offending.
"The Farrell and Miskelly families are not the first to be visited with the grief and sorrow which arises from the carnage on our roads, and sadly they will not be the last," said the judge.