Belfast Telegraph

Killer driver has ‘unduly lenient’ jail term hiked

By Alan Erwin

A civil servant jailed for causing death by dangerous driving must serve nearly six months extra behind bars, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Judges held that the original 16-month sentence imposed on Steven Warnock for the Co Down road crash which killed John Cully (20) was unduly lenient.

He was found to have been showing off in his Honda Civic at a “grossly excessive” speed when it collided with the victim's Volkwagen Golf outside Portavogie in April 2009.

Mr Cully was killed instantly. A passenger in Warnock's car was seriously injured.

Earlier this year Warnock (25), from Main Street, Portavogie, pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and causing grievous bodily injury by dangerous driving.

He was to serve half of his original term in prison and half on licence.

The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the sentence on the basis that it should be more severe.

The speed Warnock was driving at on the wrong side of the road, his alleged showing off, and a |previous conviction for speeding were all listed as aggravating features.

Warnock, who worked at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, spent several weeks in hospital himself following the accident.

His lawyer argued that he had shown genuine remorse and had acted completely out of character.

But a panel of three senior judges found that the original sentence was unduly lenient.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: “There was an |element of showing off the speed of the vehicle to the passenger.”

He imposed a new sentence of two years and three months imprisonment, half to be spent in custody and half on licence.

A five-year disqualification from driving was maintained.

Sir Declan added: “In this case, as in all such cases, we are very mindful of the fact that, sadly, no sentence imposed by the court can assuage or make good the |terrible sense of hurt and loss suffered by a grieving family which has lost a loved one as a result of the avoidable and culpably |irresponsible actions of someone who, albeit unintentionally, caused the death of an entirely|innocent young man.”

During his initial sentencing in June, Crown Court Judge David Smith told the court that Warnock, who spent several weeks in hospital following the crash, had shown “great remorse” and that the former head boy of |Glastry College in Newtownards was a hard working father-of-one.

He added that the case was both tragic and distressing.

At the time Warnock sobbed as he was led away from the dock in handcuffs with the friends and family of the victim watching on.

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