Brazilian student avoids jail over crash that killed ‘very special’ father-of-three
A Brazilian medical student has been given a suspended sentence for killing a beloved father-of-three in a car accident, leaving the judge frustrated by sentencing guidelines.
Isabella Sequetto Terror (29) admitted causing the death of 41-year-old Ballycastle man Francis ‘Fra’ Watson by driving carelessly on the Drones Road in Ballymoney last year.
During her sentencing at Antrim Crown Court last week, Judge Patricia Smyth expressed dismay at the punishment options available to her.
“There are guidelines in terms of sentencing and in these circumstances custodial sentences will not be granted even though death has been the outcome,” she said.
“This approach does not seem to recognise the extreme distress caused to the family and friends of the deceased. I wish to stress that life cannot be restored. In these circumstances, no sentence will relieve the family’s anguish and loss.
“It seems to me there is no course of action that Francis’s family are going to feel in any way reflects what has happened. It seems to me that a short suspended sentence is the best option available. I hope the family understands the law does not give me the tools to deal with this case effectively.
“The only thing this process can bring about is an opportunity to reflect on Fra’s life, the terrible circumstances in which we lost him and to warn the public that this case demonstrates that a momentary lapse in concentration can destroy so many lives. Perhaps that is the best thing that can be asked of this process. I know that is no comfort to his loved ones and I regret that very deeply.”
Mr Watson died after the hired Kia Picanto that Terror was driving around Northern Ireland on a sightseeing trip hit his Volkswagen on February 6, 2019, the court heard.
She had been on a trip with her boyfriend to see the Dark Hedges, made famous by Game of Thrones, at the time.
The court also heard that Terror, a trained lawyer, had glanced down at the air conditioning in her car in the moments before the fatal collision.
The court was earlier told the defendant veered across the central line on the Drones Road by a foot before clipping the driver’s side of Mr Watson’s vehicle, which careered off the road and struck a concrete post.
The construction worker was pronounced dead at the scene.
Sentencing Terror to four months in prison, suspended for one year, Judge Smyth offered her condolences to the grieving relatives of Mr Watson, who were sat in the public gallery.
“It goes without saying that the anguish caused to those who loved Francis cannot be adequately assessed,” she said.
“I appreciate this is a very difficult day. I know there is nothing I can say or do which will bring you any comfort. I wish it were otherwise.
“I have read and carefully reflected on the victim impact statements from Francis’s mother, as well as his partner and the mother of his children.
“Fra was clearly a very special person, Roisin’s soulmate and father of her three children. The burden of grief and responsibility is laid bare in her statement, (which) is a testament to the utter devastation that can be caused by even a momentary lapse in concentration.
“He thought his greatest achievement in life was being a father. To have to explain the finality of death to small children is an impossible task and having to provide reassurance to them that their mother will not also be taken is heart-rending.
“That would be difficult enough, but she has also had to deal with financial hardship as a result (of his death).
“For his mother, she has been caused unimaginable grief and anger. He wasn’t only a son and brother, he also worked alongside his brother and father and was their workmate. I accept that the knowledge that Ms Terror is responsible for his death is a burden she will always bear.
“She continues to avail of therapy and there is no question she is genuinely remorseful.”
To spare the family distress, details of Mr Watson’s injuries were not read out, but Judge Smyth said:“It is enough to say (they) were catastrophic.”
Terror, with an address in Rio de Janeiro, wiped away tears during the sentencing, which she attended remotely via videolink from Brazil. She had been bailed prior to sentencing and allowed to return to South America to complete her studies at medical school.