Belfast Telegraph

Jail term of motorist who crashed into film crew is cut on appeal

By Alan Erwin

A motorist who ploughed into a film crew and injured five people is to have his prison sentence reduced by four months, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Hugh McGrattan will now serve two years behind bars after senior judges identified a flaw in the sentencing process following the crash in Belfast.

The 26-year-old lost control of his car and collided with a group of people shooting an RTE documentary on the Apollo Road in November 2015.

Five cast and crew members sustained serious injuries, including one victim who suffered paralysis from the chest down and now requires a wheelchair.

McGrattan, from Whiterock Drive in the west of the city, admitted five counts of causing grievous bodily injury by dangerous driving.

Moments before the collision he had been travelling at excess speed in a 30mph area.

McGrattan admitted at the scene that he had been going too fast, saying the car slid and he feared it was going to tip over.

He was originally handed a sentence of four years and eight months, half to be served in prison and half on licence, and disqualified from driving for five years.

Defence lawyers challenged the term handed down, arguing that it had been too heavy.

Ruling on the appeal, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: "There was an extremely serious injury in relation to one of those involved, which was life changing, and needs to be taken into account as an aggravating factor."

The accident was caused by McGrattan's "grossly excessive" speed, he confirmed.

It was estimated that he had reached 52mph in the area - slightly less than what was accepted at trial.

Sir Declan agreed that McGrattan's culpability put the case in the highest sentencing bracket.

He held, however, that it was placed too high within that range before mitigation for remorse and discount for the guilty plea was applied.

Describing it as a difficult judgment to make, the Lord Chief Justice said: "On balance we have come to the view that we should interfere with the sentence.

"We will reduce the sentence of four years and eight months to... four years, comprising two years in custody and two years on licence."

Belfast Telegraph

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