Father-of-two jailed for pedestrian death

Published Friday, 14 February 2014
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A 24-year-old father of two, who admitted causing the death of a pedestrian knocked down and killed on a Belfast road, has been handed a three-and-a-half year prison sentence.

Father-of-two jailed for pedestrian death
The scene of the crash on Cromac Street in May 2012. (© UTV)

Stephen McManus, from Breda Park in the city, will spend 21 months in prison and a further 21 months on licence upon his release after admitting causing the death of Niall Harrigan by dangerous driving.

Mr Harrigan, 25, was living in Belfast at the time of the fatal collision but he was originally from Armoy in north Antrim.

He was struck by the Subaru Impreza driven by McManus at Cromac Street on the evening of 18 May 2012.

Belfast Crown Court heard the essence of the dangerous driving was the excessive speed in which McManus was driving.

A forensic report calculated that the car was being driven at a speed of between 45 and 67mph in a 30mph zone.

Prosecutor Peter Magill told the court:"Mr Harrigan had just started to cross the road when he was hit by the Subaru. Such was the impact that he was thrown into the air and projected forward into the oncoming lane, causing him to land on the bonnet of a Hyundai car."

The Crown barrister said six off-duty doctors, who happened to be passing came to Mr Harrigan's aid, as did members of staff from the nearby fire station.

Mr Magill said: "So violent was the collision of the Subaru with Mr Harrigan that he had sustained the gravest injuries."

He was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital in west Belfast, but despite the "strenuous efforts" of all the medical personnel, Mr Harrigan was pronounced dead in the early hours of 19 May 2012.

Mr Magill said several witnesses who saw the Subaru in and around Cromac Street prior to the collision described the car being driven at speed, and at one point undertaking a taxi.

McManus admitted to police that he may have been driving over the speed limit and subsequently pleaded guilty to a charge of causing death by dangerous driving.

Defence barrister Richard Weir QC told the court "the essence of the dangerous driving is the element of speed."

Branding the incident as "an awful tragedy", Mr Weir said his client McManus had expressed "instant and real remorse", saying: "When he was told, he had to have a priest brought in to him, so upset was he by what he had done.

"When he learned of the death, the doctor had to be called to the police station... so affected was he, not for himself but for what he had done."

Mr Weir also revealed that since the fatal collision, McManus has moved house as he "doesn't want to be down in that area because of the tragedy he caused."

The defence barrister concluded by telling the court McManus "didn't set out on this evening to do any harm whatsoever."

Judge Donna McColgan told McManus that due to the eye witness reports and the forensic report, it was clear he was driving at "greatly excessive speeds", adding she accepted his "genuine shock and remorse."

The Judge also told the court she received a statement from Niall's father Owen Harrigan.

Saying the statement was "extremely heartfelt and dignified," Judge McColgan said: "The court extends its extreme sympathy to the Harrigan family, in respect of their loss."

Speaking after sentence was passed Andrina McManus, the sister of Stephen McManus, said: "We are all upset that Stephen has to go to jail, but we fully understand that Niall's family will never see him again.

"We want to express our absolute, sincere and deepest sympathy to Niall's family."

Speaking outside Belfast courthouse, PSNI Sergeant Robin Tudge said: "We acknowledge the custodial sentence handed down by the judge however we recognise that whatever the length of sentence it will never bring Niall back.

"Niall was just 25 years old, when his life was so cruelly taken from him by a vehicle that was being driven dangerously through the city; undertaking other vehicles and travelling at a speed of 45-67 mph in the 30mph zone. Officers and support agencies have worked tirelessly to ensure that the person responsible for this crime was brought before the courts.

"Although Stephen McManus did not set out to harm anyone that day his reckless attitude to the safety of other road users has meant that Niall's future has been lost, and that the Harrigan family have been left to suffer an immeasurable grief.

Sergeant Tudge concluded: "I would appeal to all motorists to respect other road users; stick to speed limits, drive safely and consider the long term impact which your actions can have on others."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
6 Comments
robbie in Bangor wrote (308 days ago):
next time you are driving check your speed. .most people break the law at least once a day
Colleen in South Belfast wrote (309 days ago):
3 and a half years for killing an innocent man.?thought the law states that death by dangerous driving is 15 years.?the family of this poor young man killed by a dangerous driver should appeal the sentence!whats the sentence handed out say to other little boy racers,? Don't worry go mad in a car kill some innocent person and you will get a slap on the wrist.! 15 YEARS SHOULD MEAN 15 years,remember the driver was speeding up to 67mph in a built up area showing of his driving to spectators ,his sentence is a disgrace and God help that young mans family who's son was killed by a death driver.! The law needs changed ASAP ,to stop anymore innocent people being killed by rack less dangerous drivers.!heart goes out to that poor innocent mans family who's son was killed by that idiot trying to impress his friends by speeding up and down cromac street.!
Robert in Belfast wrote (311 days ago):
This is a tragic case. Why, however, has a PSNI Sergeant taken it upon himself to hold a little mini press conference outside the Court? Surely it is the sole duty of the presiding Judge to pass judgement on the case including comments. This practice undermines the courts and is becoming more common
Annoyed in Bangor wrote (311 days ago):
21 months for taking a life...good old UK justice. ..life is cheap
Mr Fletcher in Ulster wrote (311 days ago):
This is disgraceful the leniency of this sentence. The case should be reviewed,there was a life lost here.
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