Victim's son welcomes jail term for man who crashed killing lifelong pal
The son of a man killed in a car crash caused by the victim's lifelong friend has welcomed a 12-month prison term as "a relief and comfort" - but said there are no winners in the case.
Richard Frazer was sentenced at Londonderry Crown Court yesterday, having already pleaded guilty to careless driving causing the death of Wilson Sherrard.
Mr Sherrard died in the crash on the Foreglen Road near Claudy on August 2, 2016.
His son Christopher, from the Fountain in Londonderry, welcomed the 12-month term - half of which will be spent on licence - and said the family had braced themselves for a suspended sentence.
Christopher, who has since set up a support group for people bereaved through accidents, said: "There were no winners in all of this, there was nothing but pain and anguish for our family for the past two years.
"We were surprised that the judge imposed a custodial sentence; we were trying to prepare ourselves for a suspended sentence but we are certainly not celebrating.
"It has been a relief and a comfort that a custodial sentence has been imposed, but it was very traumatic for us, especially my mother to hear for the first time details of the crash.
"Not knowing the exact cause or how my father died for two years has been extremely tough and it was one of the reasons I set up the support group Life After, which gives support to families bereaved by road deaths.
"The support I have received from the members of our group this week has been tremendous and I know so many other members who are still going through the court process will be heartened when they hear a custodial sentence was imposed in our case.
"It is important that motorists get the message that if you are not driving a car with all the care and attention you should be and cause the death of someone, then there will be a price to pay."
Mr Sherrard's father Wilson (60), a renowned maker of sashes for the Orange Order, was a front seat passenger in a Mazda car driven by Frazer. He died from multiple injuries sustained in the head-on crash.
The collision occurred when Frazer's car momentarily drove for two to three seconds on the wrong side of the main Belfast to Londonderry road.
He travelled a distance of between 45 and 67 metres before he struck an oncoming van while both vehicles were travelling at about 50mph in the 60mph zone.
A forensic expert stated the accident was caused by Frazer having either a period of inattention or a period of loss of control of his car.
There were no skid marks on the road linked to the collision.
A prosecution barrister said the crash had all the hallmarks of Frazer, who was also seriously injured in the crash, having fallen asleep behind the wheel.
Frazer, in his interviews with the police, told them that he was neither tired nor exhausted at the time of the collision and he could offer no explanation for what had happened.
Judge Philip Babington said the death of Wilson Sherrard has had a profound impact on his family.
He said Mr Sherrard had been married for 41 years and he and his wife were a very close and loving couple.
He said it was clear the family members were devastated by what had happened.
Judge Babington said Frazer had only apologised for his actions in June of this year after he had pleaded guilty to the charges.
"I accept on balance that there has been remorse but it is strange, bearing in mind the close relationship between the two families, that no apology was received until after the plea of guilty was entered and before sentence," he said.
Judge Babington said there was no evidence of Frazer braking nor of him trying to swerve to avoid the head-on crash.
"There is nothing that I can do to turn the clock back and I fully understand the anguish, sadness and devastation of the Sherrard family," he said.
Frazer, who has not driven since the fatal accident, will serve half of the 12-month jail sentence in custody and half on licence.