Northern Ireland news

Drink driver who left the scene after striking cyclist who later died is jailed

A DRINK driver who was at least twice the limit when he crashed into a cyclist, leaving his victim fatally injured in a field, has been jailed for two and a half years.

With the family of Timothy Little looking on from the public gallery at Craigavon Crown Court, Judge Patrick Lynch QC told Hugh Robert Graham the fact that despite knowing he had struck another human being, he “simply walked away from the scene rather than giving what assistance he could is clearly an aggravating factor.”

Graham (26) was also banned from driving for three years.

Three hours after the accident Graham's reading was just about twice the legal drink drive limit but a forensic scientist had done a “back calculation” which put Graham up to two and a half times the limit at the time of the accident.

“There’s little doubt that alcohol was a contributory, if not the cause of the accident itself,” said the judge, “that because of alcohol taken and the inability to make the proper judgement of speed and placement on the road itself, the result of which was the total lack of control that caused the fatal accident.”

Last November Graham, from Ardkeen Crescent in east Belfast, entered a guilty plea to causing the death of Mr Little by driving carelessly with excess alcohol on the Glenside Road in Dunmurry on 14 October 2018.

Opening the facts of the case, Ms Auret outlined that just after 8am that Sunday morning 45-year-old Timmy Little was cycling when he was struck by the Seat Leon being driving by Graham.

As Mr Little lay unconscious in a field, Graham got out and began to walk away with one witness who arrived shortly after the impact describing him as “wobbling” on his feet.

An acquaintance of Graham happened to be driving past on his way to work so he stopped to give him a lift and noticed that his hair and clothes were “covered in grass.”

That witness told police: “I jokingly said to him ‘you must’ve had a rough night’ and he said ‘I think I’m going to jail….I think I may have killed someone’.”

Ms Auret said the witness wouldn’t let Graham out of the car until they arrived at Woodbourne station and that triggered the police investigation which established that Graham had lost control of his car on a tight left hand bend which he had tried to take too fast, striking the cyclist on his driver’s side with the victim flung up over the windscreen and roof.

Sadly, Mr Little sustained “multiple catastrophic injuries, multiple fractures and a significant brain injury…which would’ve caused immediate unconsciousness and his inevitable death” two days later in hospital.

Conceding that it was a “difficult case with a grieving family” to be considered, defence counsel Finbar Lavery said that in the immediate aftermath Graham had been “in a total and utter state of shock and revealing that Graham has not driven since the incident “and nor does he intend to ever drive again,” the barrister said it was clear from the reports the driver is replete with genuine remorse and regret at the consequences of his “very very bad decision” to drive.

Sentencing Graham, Judge Lynch said there was clear authority that “not wishing to sound harsh or unsympathetic but personal mitigation and acute feelings of remorse” carry little weight in comparison to such serious offences but that he did accept the defendant's remorse is genuine.

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