Belfast Telegraph

Law jailing killer drivers for life must extend to Northern Ireland, says family of tragic Enda

By Claire McNeilly

The father of a hit-and-run victim said it was "hugely disappointing" that new UK laws to punish killer drivers with life imprisonment will not come into force in Northern Ireland.

Peter Dolan also said he felt let down by ministers because road users here are going to have to wait much longer for the Assembly to bring in much-needed changes, despite previous promises to review sentencing.

He was speaking after the Government announced stringent new legislation aimed at cracking down on death drivers - but it will only apply in England and Wales, as justice is a devolved matter.

Under the proposed changes, motorists who cause death by speeding, street racing or while on a mobile phone could face the same maximum life sentence as those charged with manslaughter. The current upper limit is 14 years.

The measures will see life sentences introduced for those convicted of causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs.

The Government is also reviewing the possibility of a new charge of causing death by dangerous cycling, following a series of incidents involving bikes.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph on the third anniversary of the death of 18-year-old Enda, who was killed as he walked back to his room at Queen's University's student village in October 2014, Mr Dolan said it was time for urgent action. "We've been campaigning for stricter penalties in the three years since Enda was killed. It doesn't get any easier," he said.

"Former Justice Minister Clare Sugden has been keeping us informed about the ongoing sentencing review, but we'd like it speeded up.

"We want the charge that will apply to drivers in England and Wales to extend to Northern Ireland."

He added: "It's very hard to sit back and watch progress being made in other parts of the UK but not here; I speak for a lot of bereaved families."

Enda's killer, David Lee Stewart, from Gray's Park Avenue in south Belfast, had drink and drugs in his system and drove with the teenager on his van roof for about 800 yards.

His passenger, 21-year-old William Ross Casement, who was drinking with Stewart in the hours leading up to the collision, got out of the van when Enda's body fell off.

But after looking at the fatally injured teenager he got back into the vehicle, and Stewart drove off before crashing further up the road.

Stewart was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison and the same amount of time on licence.

Mr Dolan said there needed to be a minimum sentence introduced for dangerous drivers who kill on the roads because "at present the punishment doesn't fit the crime".

"Judges need to use the sentences they have the power to hand out," he said.

"We need to ask why no one has ever been given the maximum sentence - what exactly does someone need to do to get the full 14 years?

"Northern Ireland needs to take a harder line against killer drivers. The current punishment is no deterrent. It doesn't matter how much money is pumped into advertisements warning people about drink or drugs driving. Until the punishment fits the crime, nothing will change."

Mr Dolan said 500 people turned out for a march in Enda's memory at the weekend.

"It's the third anniversary of my son's death and yet the person who killed him will soon walk free and he'll soon be behind the wheel of a car again," he said.

"That's not right. There's a big hole in our lives now. We need an Executive to stand up and make change happen."

Belfast Telegraph

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