Northern Ireland

Man who killed friend and seriously injured another by careless driving whilst unfit jailed for 18 months

The woman appeared before Coleraine Magistrates Court on Thursday

A Belfast man who killed a friend and seriously injured another when his car left the road has been jailed for 18 months.

Christopher McGuigan (42) was also served a three year driving ban by Judge Peter Irvine KC.

At an earlier hearing McGuigan, from Waterford Street in the city, entered guilty pleas to causing the death of James McGranaghan by careless driving while unfit.

The 42-year-old also admitted causing grievous bodily injury to Emmanuel Tully, also by careless driving while unfit, following a single vehicle RTC at the junction of the Seven Mile Straight and Ballyutoag Road on 29 March 2019.

The court heard previously that 52-year-old Mr McGranaghan had been dealing with some mental health issues at the time so his friends McGuigan and Mr Tully had spent time with him and supported him but then they decided to go for a drive.

Summarising the facts of the case at Coleraine Crown Court on Tuesday Judge Irvine told the court how a lorry driver had spotted McGuigan’s Nissan Qashqai vehicle overshoot the junction at around 5.30am that morning, ploughing through a grass bank and into an adjacent field.

The scene was examined by an expert crash examiner who found there was a give way sign 150 years before the junction and if McGuigan had spotted it, he “would have had ample time to stop” but he had lost control when his nearside tyres crossed into the grass verge.

Mr McGranaghan died as a result of the injuries he sustained while Mr Tully was also seriously hurt having suffered “extensive injuries” including fractures to his neck, sternum and ribs as well as broken teeth and a laceration to his spleen.

At the scene McGuigan gave a zero reading for alcohol and he refused to allow a sample of blood to be taken but the court heard he was admitted to driving while unfit on the basis that he had been taking prescription drugs in the hours before the fatal crash.

He told police: “I was going a bit too fast. It was foggy. I was going down the Seven Mile Straight. The road ends in a T junction but I couldn’t stop in time. It was an effing accident.”

Judge Irvine told the court he had identified aggravating features including there being two victims, McGuigan’s previous convictions which include relevant entries and driving bans for careless driving, dangerous driving and driving while unfit.

Commenting that the record “indicates irresponsible behaviour,” the judge said that as well as “higher culpability” there were also mitigating features including McGuigan’s guilty pleas, “genuine remorse” and the “considerable delay” in bringing the prosecution.

The defence had argued there were exceptional features in the case including McGuigan’s mental health, that he is tackling his issues and is the primary carer for his mother and elderly aunt but Judge Irvine said he was not persuaded there was such exceptionality as to justify suspending the prison sentence.