Northern Ireland news

Driver who caused farmer's death by careless driving to be sentenced

Killer driver Nicola Watson leaving Newry court.

A driver wept in court as her lawyer said the tragic death of the farmer she killed “will live with her for the rest of her life.”

Sitting in the dock of Newry Crown Court, 25-year-old Nicola Evelyn Watson repeatedly wiped away her tears during the half hour hearing.

Watson, from Patrick Street in Newry, was due to be sentenced after she pleaded guilty to causing the death of Patrick Gerard Lively by driving carelessly on the Bryansford Road in Hilltown on August 15, 2016.

Having heard the prosecution opening and a defence plea in mitigation, Judge Gordon Kerr QC freed her on bail and said he would pass sentence next Wednesday once he had considered the guidelines and authorities.

Earlier, prosecuting QC Charles MacCreanor described how Mr Lively, a 60-year-old married father of two, had just finished preparing a field for baling and was heading home for his tea when the accident happened.

Watson, driving a Volkswagen Polo car, had come up behind his old tractor and had started to overtake it on the bend approaching a cross roads when Mr Lively turned right, veering across her path and the two collided.

The impact caused the tractor to topple over and it fell on Mr Lively who was trapped beneath it.

According to a forensic expert, there were no road signs warning drivers of the approaching cross roads and the indicators and the brake lights on the tractor “did not operate” when he examined it after the crash, said Mr MacCreanor.

At the scene, said the lawyer, Watson told another driver “he turned across me” and when asked what happened by a police sergeant, she told the officer: “ I was coming behind him. We were both heading the same direction. He went to swoop left but I don’t know if he was going left or that was him going right or whether he changed his mind last minute and I didn’t have time to slow down and I hit him. I don’t know what point of the tractor I hit.“

During a phone conversation with her boss the day after the tragedy, Watson told her “ I’m stupid. There was a tractor in front of me and to me he was veering towards the left as if he was allowing me to overtake him. I didn’t think, I just pulled out and thought ‘oh s**t what have I done, I’m overtaking on a bend.’ I just stuck my boot down to get back in and all I remember is bang.”

In relation to potential aggravating features, Mr MacCreanor told the court speed was not one as the forensic expert opined the car was travelling at around 25 mph in the 60 zone and the tractor at 10-15, adding that “it appears to be a case where there are no aggravating factors that we rely on.”

“The matters that we ask the court to consider is that the carelessness of overtaking at a crossroads when approaching a blind bend with a slow moving vehicle which on her own account, she wasn’t sure which way that vehicle was going,” said the senior lawyer.

Defence QC Patrick Lyttle told the court the basis of his plea was that “it’s not a case for an immediate custodial sentence” given the lack of aggravating factors and the momentary inattention that caused the tragic accident.

Revealing that Watson went to school with a daughter of her victim, the lawyer said she had “demonstrated significant remorse and insight” into the consequences of her mistake.

Describing her as a “decent, hard working individual,” Mr Lyttle urged the judge that Watson “will never be back before the courts.”

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