Belfast Telegraph

Pensioner's family slam 'insulting' jail sentences handed to killer drivers

By George Jackson

Relatives of a pensioner killed in a head-on crash have said the jail sentences handed to the two drivers responsible for his death are "disgusting and insulting".

David John Ritchie, a 69-year-old retired power station worker, died after the collision near Londonderry.

The car he was driving along the Glenshane Road near Drumahoe was hit by an oncoming car which veered out of control on the evening of April 17, 2013.

Mr Ritchie's 17-year-old granddaughter Samara was also injured in the crash.

Yesterday Thomas Hyndman (27), from Knockbrack Road in Ardmore, was jailed for eight years.

He had pleaded guilty to causing the death of Mr Ritchie by dangerous driving. He also pleaded guilty to driving without insurance, failing to stop at the scene and failing to report the crash.

His co-defendant Stephen Magee (34), from Ivy Mead in the Waterside, whose car spun out of control and struck Mr Ritchie's car, was jailed for 18 months.

He had contested a single charge of causing Mr Ritchie's death by dangerous driving.

The jury found him not guilty of the charge, but unanimously guilty of causing Mr Ritchie's death by careless driving.

Both Hyndman and Magee will serve half of their sentences in jail and half on licence. Hyndman was also disqualified from driving for seven years and Magee disqualified for five years.

Afterwards, Megan Kirkwood, a granddaughter of Mr Ritchie, said the sentences were a disgrace.

"One of them will serve just nine months for killing my grandfather and the other will serve just four years for killing a kind, loving man. That is an insult to his memory," she said. "It has taken us almost five years to get this far only for them to be given petty sentences."

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.

Two years after causing Mr Ritchie's death, Magee was detected driving at 98mph in an 60mph zone, also along the Glenshane Road.

Magee suffered a head injury in the crash with Mr Ritchie's car. He suffered post-traumatic amnesia and cognitive impairment and was unable to give evidence at his trial because he had no memory of the incident.

Witnesses told the trial they had seen both Hyndman and Magee driving Vauxhall Astra cars at speed and racing each other minutes before the crash.

Hyndman initially stopped and returned to the scene of the collision before driving off, leaving Mr Ritchie dead or dying, the victim's granddaughter trapped in the car, and his friend and co-defendant Magee unconscious in a field with a serious head injury.

He went home and slept but was arrested the following morning.

In a victim impact statement, Mr Ritchie's daughter Andrea said: "Walking into the living room is not the same. My daddy had a special chair and since his death no-one will sit in it."

As Judge Philip Babington delivered his sentencing yesterday, Hyndman and Magee, who both had previous convictions for road traffic offences, kept their heads bowed in the dock.

The judge said it was a very sad and tragic incident in which a much-loved man lost his life quite needlessly due to the driving of the two defendants.

Speaking directly to Hyndman and Magee, Judge Babington said: "Lest there be any doubt, it was your driving on this evening that caused Mr Ritchie's death. If you had been driving properly this would not have happened."

Belfast Telegraph


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