Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Cold logic of law can add insult to injury

'The cold logic of the law does not always sit easily with the public and particularly victims or their relatives who often take a more emotional attitude' (stock photo)
'The cold logic of the law does not always sit easily with the public and particularly victims or their relatives who often take a more emotional attitude' (stock photo)

Editor's Viewpoint

On a June day last year two lives were changed forever in an inexplicable accident.

Cyclist Mark Millar was left paralysed from the waist down and suffered an extensive catalogue of other injuries when a car driven by Elaine Adu hit his bicycle.

Mrs Adu, who is a Christian pastor, says she thinks about the accident every day and struggles to come to terms with the fact her actions left someone else with life-changing injuries.

Mr Millar has no difficulty realising what happened to him.

A keen cyclist and athlete, he has undergone major surgeries, extensive rehabilitation and faces more treatment for years to come.

He shows remarkable courage and stoicism in suggesting that he may one day return to the sport he loves as a para-cyclist.

However, understandably, he is angry at the sentence handed down to the motorist - 80 hours of community service and a one-year driving ban.

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Given the gravity of his injuries and the fact that he says he remains in chronic pain, his reaction is to be expected.

While he has branded the punishment handed out to Mrs Adu as a "joke", it must be borne in mind that judges are bound by sentencing guidelines, including mitigating factors such as an early guilty plea and remorse.

The lack of any discernible aggravating factors such as the use of a telephone or tablet, or issues with eyesight or having taken drink, also played in her favour.

But the cold logic of the law does not always sit easily with the public and particularly victims or their relatives who often take a more emotional attitude.

The family of Queen's University student Enda Dolan was angry when the drunken driver who knocked him down and killed him was sentenced to seven years in jail.

That sentence was increased by one year when the original term was appealed.

There was anger also from the family of Armagh teenage jogger Lesley-Ann McCarragher when the young driver who knocked her down and killed her had his nine-year sentence reduced to eight on appeal.

It has to be accepted that no sentence will ever give Mr Millar back his full health or mobility.

However, that does not make his present situation any easier to bear, nor does it mellow his feelings about the sentence handed down to the woman who changed his life forever.

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