Northern Ireland

Man who left scene of fatal crash which killed father-of-two handed suspended sentence

Judge says Ciaran Feeney’s behaviour after he struck victim on a dark country road was “shameful and dishonourable”

Michael Kirk died in a hit-and-run accident in south Armagh last year
Michael Kirk

A Co Armagh man who left the scene of a fatal hit and run accident walked free from court on Tuesday after his two year jail sentence was suspended for three years.

Sentencing Ciaran Feeney at Newry Crown Court, sitting in Craigavon, Judge Paul Ramsey KC told the 38-year-old that while he was not criminally responsible for the death of Michael Kirk, his behaviour after he struck him on a dark country road was “shameful and dishonourable.”

“The family must be bemused and simply cannot get their heads around the agreed position between the parties that he bears no responsibility for the tragic death,” said the judge, “it’s his behaviour after the incident rather than his behaviour leading up to the incident which is central to this case.”

“It is clear that his behaviour at the scene leaves a great deal to be desired and at best can be described as shameful and dishonourable,” Judge Ramsey declared, describing the case as “unique and distressing.”

He told the court while there was no doubt that Feeney’s offence warranted a prison sentence, the question of whether the sentence would be immediate or suspended “has troubled me greatly but I keep coming back to the basis of the plea.”

That basis of plea, said the judge, made clear that while Feeney’s car struck Mr Kirk “as he lay prone on the ground” and caused his death, “it is clear his driving was not at fault... and therefore he is not criminally responsible for causing the death by careless or dangerous driving.”

Last March Feeney, from the Dundalk Road in Crossmaglen, entered guilty pleas to two counts of perverting the course of justice, failing to remain after an accident and failing to report his name and address to police.

The perverting justice charges outline that Feeney “having been involved in a collision in which death was caused to Michael Kirk subsequently left the scene and hid the said vehicle at Foxfield Road, Crossmaglen” on 23 August 2020 and then three days later, he “advised police that you had lost your phone whereas and in fact the phone had not been lost.”

On Tuesday Judge Ramsey outlined how Mr Kirk had been out socialising at a family event when the police received a call to attend the Blaney Road.

When paramedics arrived Feeney’s father Martin was performing CPR on the stricken Mr Kirk but he died at the scene from head injuries.

During police interviews Feeney accepted he had struck Mr Kirk as he lay prone on the road and that afterwards, he had stopped and performed CPR until his dad arrived at the scene and then he left, driving on for several miles until he ditched his car in a field.

Feeney also accepted he had disposed of his car keys and mobile phone

Judge Ramsey said it was clear from the pre-sentence report that Feeney has “expressed regret a remorse” for the offences.

Turning to the victim impact statements the judge outlined how Mr Kirk’s relatives had written about their pain and loss while others described Mr Kirk as a “kind and loving man” who was the “life and soul of the family” and the “heartbreak at having to explain [to his youngest child] that he is gone forever.”