Families of dangerous driving victims Enda Dolan and Lesley-Ann McCarragher call for tougher sentences
TWO families who lost teenage children due to the actions of dangerous drivers have united to campaign for tougher sentences.
Enda Dolan (18), from Killyclogher in Co Tyrone, was walking to his student accommodation in south Belfast when he was knocked down in 2014.
David Lee Stewart, who had consumed drink and drugs, drove with the teenager on the roof of his van for about 800 yards before stopping.
He admitted five offences including dangerous driving causing the teenager's death and was initially sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison followed by the same period on licence.
The seven-year sentence was later increased on appeal to nine, with half again to be served behind bars.
Lesley-Ann McCarragher (19), from Armagh, was struck while jogging in April 2016.
Her killer Nathan Finn initially denied any involvement in the crash and tried to hide the car, but later accepted causing death by dangerous driving and causing death whilst driving without a licence or insurance.
The 20-year-old, of Keady Road, Armagh, also admitted failing to stop and remain at the scene of a collision, or report it to police.
He received a nine-year sentence in 2016, but earlier this month upon appeal it was reduced to eight – four years in jail and the same period on licence.
Defence lawyers had argued the original sentence failed to properly take into account Finn's previous good character and remorse.
The victims' families are to seek changes in the law to increase sentences, and permanently ban any killer driver from getting behind the wheel again.
Enda's father Peter Dolan, who had followed Finn's case closely, hit out at reduction in sentence as "cruel beyond belief".
"It's time the justice system kicked out the notion that saying sorry can lead to reductions in sentences. Finn is someone who lied to police and denied any involvement in Lesley-Ann's death," he said.
"He breached his bail terms and persisted in his denials, only pleading guilty when he had no option due to the compelling evidence."
Lesley Monaghan, Lesley-Ann's aunt and whom she was named after, said: "We've all seen genuine remorse in other tragedies. We know what it looks like and it wasn't demonstrated by Finn, whose remorse is wholly self-serving."
She added: "Like the Dolan family, when we lost one member in such appalling circumstances, all our lives were changed forever.
"Neither Enda nor Lesley-Ann did anything to cause their deaths. They were snatched away from life by the selfish actions of two drivers who shouldn't have been on the roads at all.
"Enda and Lesley-Ann were unlawfully killed and that is manslaughter. It's time to look at the crime through a broader lens and stop splitting hairs to benefit offenders.
"Look to the circumstances and the resulting impact. This isn't some minor inconvenience – it is literally life and death."