Belfast Telegraph

Relatives of biker killed by driver vent fury in court

By Michael Donnelly

The distraught sisters of a motorcyclist killed by a student teacher screamed at their brother’s killer in court after a judge told the woman she would not be jailed.

There was uproar in the Antrim court when the sisters of 49-year-old father-of-four Francis James Donaldson shouted out to a weeping Christina McVeigh: “You killed my brother... you killed my brother”.

Crown Court Judge Corinne Philpott QC quickly pointed out that such an outburst “will not bring Mr Donaldson back”, and that “no sentence that this court can give will do that”.

Another member of the family called out: “All we are looking for is justice.”

The judge replied simply that she was applying the law, as guidelines did not call for an immediate custodial sentence.

Judge Philpott had suspended 21-year-old McVeigh’s six-month jail term for two years, while banning her from driving for three years.

Prosecutor Neil Connor said that McVeigh was driving her brother to work and had just left their Carey Mill home on the outskirts of Ballycastle in the late afternoon of May 30, 2010.

The “tragic accident” occurred as the student teacher, then aged 19, drove out on to the main Cushendall to Ballycastle Road.

He said initially McVeigh was charged with dangerous driving, but her plea to the lesser charge of causing death by careless driving was accepted following a review of the case and consultation with Mr Donaldson's family.

Mr Connor said that while McVeigh's view may have been partly obscured by a sign and an overgrown grass verge, the onus was still on her to ensure the road was clear before she fully emerged from the junction.

“The prosecution would accept in this tragic incident, that there are no aggravating factors. We would accept it is a case of a lapse of momentary attention and therefore falls in the lower end of the spectrum,” said the lawyer.

Passing sentence, Judge Philpott said that the sign may have interfered with her view and that the overgrown grass verge “may have masked the oncoming motorbike”.

“This was a momentary lapse. You did not drive in a dangerous way and in my view the prosecution were right to accept your plea to the lesser charge,” she added.

Judge Philpott said while the exact reason for her driving out of the junction when she did may never be known, it was “quite clear you have regretted this from the very day it happened”.

Had she been “minute later, or a minute earlier this accident probably would never have occurred”.

Defence QC Richard Weir said that McVeigh had “nothing but the deepest regret, sadness and remorse for the consequence of her actions and for the tragedy she knows she has caused”.

Belfast Telegraph

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