Northern Ireland news

Belfast man jailed for 'disgraceful' drink-driving crash in Newcastle

Emmet Magee

A DRUNK driver was branded "wicked and disgraceful" yesterday as he was jailed for more than five years after seriously injuring four people in a head-on crash in Co Down.

Emmet Peter Christopher Magee was twice the legal limit when he collided with a car after speeding to overtake a van on a left-hand bend on Bryansford Road, Newcastle.

The 33-year-old, whose girlfriend Julie Mercer was in the passenger seat, smashed into a car driven by a student nurse who was with her two friends.

The court heard Ms Mercer was found struggling to breathe, but Magee clambered over her and get out – causing her breathing to become more laboured.

His four victims all had to be cut from the wreckage and suffered significant injuries.

Magee, of Sylvan Street in north Belfast, had entered guilty pleas to four counts of causing grievous bodily injury by driving dangerously; taking his mother's car without consent; dangerous driving; driving while unfit; driving without insurance and possessing class B cannabis.

Judge Piers Grant gave Magee a sentence of nine-and-a-half years for the offences relating to the crash, with half to be spent in jail and the rest on licence.

The judge also activated a six-month suspended sentence from a previous dangerous driving offence to be served consecutively.

It means Magee will spend five years and three months in jail and a further four years and nine months on licence.

The judge told Magee: "Your driving was absolutely wicked and disgraceful.

"You have inflicted enormous damage on a significant number of people.. you are the cause of that, simply because of your selfishness and irresponsibility."

Downpatrick Crown Court heard the crash happened on May 31 last year when Magee was driving home in a Volkswagen Golf having spent the day drinking in Newcastle.

He was overtaking at around 70mph when he crashed head-on into a Ford Mondeo driven by Laura McKibben, with her friends Emma Rice and Daire Henry also in the car.

The judge said the men in the van found Ms Mercer "slumped over the front seat, struggling to breathe".

But Magee proceeded to "push her further forward", clambering over her to get out, "using her as a form of lever" and causing her breathing to become even more laboured.

Judge Grant said it showed Magee "was concerned only about himself, not anyone else".

"Having gotten out of the car, he was seen to be urinating at the side of the road with his trousers around his knees, struggling [to stand] and smelling of alcohol," the judge added.

He said the crash was a "scene of utter devastation" and Ms McKibben had "absolutely no chance whatsoever" to avoid the collision.

A blood sample from Magee showed he was more than twice the limit.

At interview, he admitted driving drunk and told officers: "I'm just gutted, I made a mistake."

Judge Grant said the victims sustained "extremely grievous" injuries including multiple bone fractures and "significant mental health trauma".

He added the consequences for them and their future lives "could only be said to be substantial".

The judge said Magee had confessed and expressed remorse, and "has to bear the responsibility for what he has inflicted".

Addressing Magee's victims at the back of the court, the judge said while no sentence "could wash away or wipe away" the damage caused, he assured them he had taken it into account.

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