Belfast Telegraph

Prosecutors may appeal 14-month jail term for 'boy racer' who killed couple

Dean and Sandra Weir
Dean and Sandra Weir
Dean and Sandra's daughter Katie
Charles Hugh Macartney
Peter Dolan
Enda Dolan
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Prosecutors are considering appealing the 14-month sentence handed down to a boy racer who killed a Co Down couple.

Charles Hugh Macartney (20) was jailed earlier this week for causing the deaths of Dean and Sandra Weir in March 2017.

The sentence was criticised by the couple's daughter and road safety campaigners.

Now prosecutors are considering if it can be challenged.

The Public Prosecution Service said: "We are considering if there is a basis to refer the sentence handed down in this case to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that it may be unduly lenient."

The victims' daughter Katie Weir, who has already said she feels let down by the sentence, has welcomed the chance of an appeal but believes that present laws mean there is little hope of a significant increase in the prison sentence.

Road safety campaigner Peter Dolan, whose student son Enda was knocked down and killed by a drink and drug driver in Belfast in 2014, also branded the sentence a "disgrace".

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.

Ms Weir said: "I do welcome the chance to bring him back before a judge, but my experience signifies how much our justice system is just completely underwhelming.

"While there might be an appeal, I don't really feel the change will be significant and it might just add another couple of extra months."

After speaking out this week, Ms Weir said she felt the case had finally got recognition after "two-and-a-half years in the dark".

"It's taken a long time for things to get where they are and I just felt like everything has been in the favour of the defence," she added.

Ms Weir has also called for more assistance for victims of road deaths in Northern Ireland, having had to approach two charities in England for help.

Dean and Sandra Weir were travelling from their home in Portavogie on March 17, 2017 to meet friends in Dublin when Macartney lost control of his Nissan Micra and crashed into their Suzuki Alto.

Macartney, from Manse Court in Newtownards, was sentenced at Newtownards Crown Court on Thursday, where Judge Geoffrey Millar QC said excess speed was "clearly the central feature" to the collision.

The court heard dash-cam footage was examined by a forensic expert who reported the Micra was travelling at 89mph as it approached a bend and around 79mph when Macartney lost control.

A speed of 89mph, the court heard, "was about the maximum speed such a car could achieve".

The expert estimated that at the point of impact Macartney was travelling at 68mph - still above the 60mph limit.

Mr Weir (52) died instantly and his daughter faced the trauma of identifying his body and having to break the news to her mother (51) in hospital before she also passed away.

Macartney (20) was jailed for 14 months, ordered to spend a further 14 months on supervised licence and banned from driving for five years.

After hearing about the latest sentence, Co Tyrone man Mr Dolan vowed to keep fighting for a change in the law.

"First of all my heart goes out to the Weir family, it's a tragedy," the campaigner said.

"Coming out of court after the sentencing brings it all back for the family.

"I very much know where they're coming from.

"I think 14 months is basically a disgrace for the death of two people.

"I have campaigned long and hard over these past number of years to increase the sentence in relation to death by dangerous driving.

"I will still fight on to do that. I believe whenever you take a life it's important you serve the time."

Mr Dolan questioned why no court here had ever used the maximum sentence of 14 years for death caused by dangerous driving.

He added: "In our particular case our son Enda was killed walking home on the Malone Road, he was mowed down by a driver.

"He was caught red-handed and the driver was initially sentenced to three-and-a-half years; we initially got that increased to four-and-a-half years. Again, that's not sufficient."

After the trauma of losing a loved one to dangerous driving, he said watching those responsible receive short sentences could be devastating.

"Whenever you go through the actual court proceedings, it's a very difficult and stressful time for the entire family," he said.

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