Lesley-Ann McCarragher's family angry over lesser charge in hit-and-run death
The family of an Armagh teenager killed in a hit-and-run has been left "devastated" by a Public Prosecution Service decision to accept a lesser charge against one of the defendants.
Lesley-Ann McCarragher was jogging along Monaghan Road in the city on April 9, 2016 when she was struck by car that sped from the scene without stopping.
Despite being airlifted to hospital the 19-year-old died from her injuries.
The car was being driven by Nathan Finn (19), of Keady Road, Armagh, who was later remanded in custody after his bail was revoked. He had denied all charges, but later accepted causing death by dangerous driving, causing death while driving without a licence or insurance, as well as failing to stop and remain at the scene of a collision, or report it to police.
Co-defendant Damien Paul McCann (31), of Lagan Road, Keady, was originally charged with causing Lesley-Ann's death by dangerous driving, which he denied.
Following legal discussions his defence team advised a plea to the stand-alone charge of dangerous driving would be offered.
There were protracted proceedings while the PPS considered this, but Newry Crown Court was yesterday informed there had been a development.
McCann was rearraigned on the original charge and replied: "Not guilty to causing death, but guilty to dangerous driving."
Prosecution counsel said she had been instructed this was acceptable.
Lesley-Ann's family declined to attend the hearing having learned in advance the lesser plea was to be accepted.
However, they issued a statement which read: "As a family we are devastated at the decision by the Public Prosecution Service to accept a plea from Damien McCann, on the lesser charge of dangerous driving.
"Both he and Nathan Finn chose to drive without regard for fellow road users and pedestrians that day.
"It was our sincere wish that McCann should face a jury on a charge of causing death by dangerous driving.
"In our opinion he had a case to answer and the evidence should have been tested in an open and transparent manner by the courts, whose ultimate decision we would have respected."
Both men will be sentenced at a later date.
McCann caused the case against both him and Finn to be significantly delayed last year after he absconded on learning he was being prosecuted.
When he finally surrendered to the court he was refused bail and remanded in custody.
A later application before the High Court was granted.
Finn was initially on bail from being charged but was remanded in custody following a breach at Christmas.
Particularly strict bail was then re-granted, but Finn was again caught in breach and returned to custody by Judge McReynolds, who rubbished a defence application to free him.
The court heard Finn's father had taken him to buy a puppy as a surprise because the stringent bail meant he was spending a lot of time in the house. This occurred in Dungannon, which was not one of the areas Finn was permitted in as part of his bail.
He was only to be driven to Armagh PSNI Station to sign twice weekly, attend counselling sessions and appear at court.
Describing this as an act of "extreme foolishness", Judge McReynolds ordered Finn to be returned to prison, stating: "It was a stupid thing for the father in seeking to buy his son a puppy when his future is custodial."