Belfast Telegraph

'Sad and heartbreaking': Teenager who caused deaths of two acquaintances given suspended sentence

A teenager who caused the deaths of two acquaintances in what a judge said was a “sad and heart-breaking case” walked free from court on Friday after his 12-month jail term was suspended for three years.

With many of them weeping silently, relatives of James Miskelly and Eoin Farrell packed the public gallery of Newry Crown Court, sitting in Downpatrick, to hear Judge Paul Ramsey QC tell 19-year-old Brian Che Kane “the consequences of your driving proved to be cataclysmic.”

"I appreciate but this will be of little comfort to the relatives, family and friends of the two dead boys because their boys are gone but there is no doubt that Che Kane will have to live with and carry for the rest of his days the knowledge and shame that he is responsible for causing the deaths of two young men," said the judge.

Previously Kane, from St. Anne’s Park in Mayobridge, had pleaded guilty to causing the deaths of the 17-year-olds by driving carelessly on the Kilbroney Road in Rostrevor on 14 September 2015.

Judge Ramsey said the teenager, who was then an R driver, lost control of the VW Bora car he was driving and it then left the road, ploughed through an elderly woman’s front garden and into an oil tank and boiler house before eventually coming to rest in a field on its roof.

The judge told the court that although the emergency services had given a “graphic description” of the “horrific and confusing scene” they had been confronted with, the recounting of those facts “must be upsetting and disturbing for the relatives” so he would not repeat, but it was suffice to say the teenagers died at the scene having tragically sustained multiple injuries.

Kane himself was also seriously injured including a broken right arm and spent over a week in hospital including four days in the intensive care unit.

“Two major questions arise from the facts of the tragedy - what caused the car to leave the road with such devastating consequences and the significance of the defendant's memory loss,” said the judge.

Judge Ramsey said there had been much debate over the cause of the crash but outlined how he had two expert engineer reports which estimated the car was travelling between 37-39mph in the 60 zone when Kane lost control.

Initially the prosecution expert had put the speed at around 45 mph but the judge said that as with any expert report, there is an undertaking that conclusions can be looked at again in the light of fresh evidence.

Such fresh evidence in the form of corrected and accurate measurements was given to the senior forensic engineer and he re-evaluated his opinion that the estimated speed was around 37-39 mph, an opinion echoed by the expert instructed by the defence team.

Commenting that he was sure such conclusion came as a surprise to the deceased’s relative, “and as a surprise to me,” the judge said he “cannot ignore” such a wealth of expert evidence which opined the loss of control was caused by oversteer coupled with low tyre pressure resulting in different handling of the car being required, the relative inexperience of the driver and the camber of the road.

These were, said the judge, “a lethal cocktail of circumstances” which in his view, given the only aggravating feature was that multiple deaths were caused, put Kane’s culpability towards the lower end of the scale.

Kane, continued Judge Ramsey, cannot remember the circumstances leading up to the fatal crash but the judge told the court he had two reports from consultant neuro psychologists which deemed that to be a genuine amnesia brought about due to the “emotional and mental” stress of the situation.

“Therefore it is clear that the memory loss in this case is genuine and authentic,” said the judge adding that the teenager has expressed genuine “shame, regret and remorse” and is “haunted” that his actions caused the untimely deaths of his two acquaintances.

Turning to James and Eoin, Judge Ramsey said it “often appears to the public” that cases focus on the defendant “to the detriment of the victims” but he explained that as because there was usually a “wealth of material” to be considered before sentencing an accused.

In this case however, the judge told the court he had victim impact statements from the boys’ parents and siblings which were “without exception eloquent, moving and heart-rending.”

Indeed, Judge Ramsey said a person would “have to have a heart of stone” not to be moved by what was said about the boys, each of them born and reared in Mayobridge, “baby of the family” James an apprentice mechanic and Eoin, an apprentice plumber whose death has caused what his mum describes as “excruciating pain,” both with bright futures ahead of them before tragedy struck “that fateful night.”

Quoting from guideline cases, the judge said it was important to remember that “human life cannot be measured, nor can it’s loss be measured by the length of a prison sentence....nor will it cure their anguish.”

He told the court it was “unusual to come across a case” where the single aggravating feature was that multiple deaths were caused with no other features such as excessive speed or alcohol associated with the offending.

“The Farrell and Miskelly families are not the first to be visited with the grief and sorrow which arises from the carnage on our raids and sadly, they will not be the last,” said he Judge.

As well as the suspended sentence, Judge Ramsey also banned Kane, who was comforted by his mother after he left the dock, from driving for two years.

Outside the court, Eoin Farrell’s father Gerard described the sentence as “a joke.”

“We are just gobsmacked and dumbfounded how that can happen,” said a clearly emotional Mr Farrell, “a suspended sentence for the loss of Eoin and James’ lives, it’s a joke.”

He said the past two years have been “just a nightmare, an absolute and continuous nightmare.”

“Its ongoing everyday. We have to get on with our lives, go to work and pay our bills and get on. It’s not fair.

“There’s nothing there for us. It feels that the Farrells and Miskelly’s are on trial, that’s the way it feels.

“The justice system has done nothing for us, absolutely nothing in my eyes. We are all hurting. We miss the boys greatly.”

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