Man jailed over girlfriend's road death

Published Tuesday, 17 June 2014
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A former disqualified driver who admitted driving "a wee bit too fast" when he crashed his car, killing his new girlfriend, has been jailed for six months for causing her death.

Man jailed over girlfriend's road death
Ammie's mother wept openly during the hearing. (© UTV)

Ammie Rea, who was 19 and from Ballyclare in Co Antrim, died when the Peugeot 206 being driven by her boyfriend of three months, 24-year-old security guard Colin Balmer, crashed on 4 December 2011 on the Ballymena Road on the outskirts of Doagh village.

He was taking them to Ballyclare where they both worked when the car skidded off the road and smashed through a fence and hit a tree.

Balmer, from Staffa Drive in Ballymena, pleaded guilty to causing Ammie's death by careless driving and admitted driving without insurance and frequently using a motor tax disc from another car.

Jailing Balmer, Judge Desmond Marrinan said he accepted he had a "deep and genuine remorse for the catastrophe" of causing Ammie's death.

The judge said she was "someone who was having a strong and good influence" on his life despite their short time together.

Judge Marrinan said the "tragedy occurred when the defendant lost control of his car". He added: "It is clear to me that the driver was driving too fast for the road conditions and he accepted that effectively when spoken to by police. His carelessness was driving too fast for the road conditions".

The judge said he was also keenly aware of the continued suffering of Ammie's grieving parents, and that the courts recognised the hurt caused to families, and made it clear that a custodial sentence was needed to reflect, or compensate, them for their grief and distress.

He said such sentences would only be suspended where there were exceptional factors.

He added that while there were powerful mitigating factors in Balmer's case, he has also to bear in mind that the aggravating features were not insignificant.

He said: "No one, unless they had experienced it, could have the slightest idea of what it would be like to lose a child, whatever their age, particularly one, like Ammie, who was on the cusp of what would appear to be a long and happy life.

"She was fortunate to have grown up in such a loving decent and kindly family."

Judge Marrinan said that punishment must relate to the culpability of the offender and was bound by the sentencing guidelines. He said judges were often accused of either being too lenient, or too strict, but he hoped he had achieved "some form of justice" in "what is an imperfect world".

However, Ammie's still grieving mother Tracey, who wept openly during the hearing, claimed that "what was said here today was very one-sided".

Earlier she and her family listened as prosecuting QC Ciaran Murphy said that around 9.30am that morning police, responding to a single vehicle accident, tragically discovered Ammie already dead in the Peugeot 206 car.

Mr Murphy said that the death of Ammie has had a devastating effect on her parents, who were extremely proud of their only daughter. Turning to Balmer, Mr Murphy added that his record of no insurance and driving whilst disqualified showed "a disregard" for road traffic legislation.

Defence QC Alan Kane said that from the outset a grieving Balmer, wished to publically express his remorse "for the heart-felt loss" of Ammie, whom he accepted was "the ideal daughter and much loved".

Balmer, he said, had a tragic background as a youngster growing up with an abusive father.

However, after meeting Ammie they became friends, then boy and girlfriend, and that she had a strong and growing influence on his life, changing its direction for the better.

Mr Kane said Balmer himself suffered serious and sustained injuries, including multiple fractures and a punctured lung and spleen from the accident, caused by his inappropriate speed combined with possible localised weather and road conditions, making driving hazardous.

However, Mr Kane said that Balmer understood clearly how the Rea family may feel, "as he is the man behind their misfortune", but that his own feelings and emotions "are genuine".

© UTV News
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17 Comments
Marbeth in Doagh in Doagh wrote (185 days ago):
Six months is an insult to the Rea famliy.. What happened to the ten years for causing death by dangerous driving? Although even if they had jailed him for life it still wouldnt have brought Aimee back.. The Rea family are the ones with the life sentence....
Injustice again! in Bangor wrote (187 days ago):
As usual - the courts do not hand out sentences to match the crimes - disgusting - time for heavier penalties!
stephen in belfast wrote (187 days ago):
that's some deterrent
Widowed in Co antrim wrote (187 days ago):
My husband was killed by a careless driver in 2004 before the charge of causing death by careless driving existed. I had to suffer the indignity of attending the local magistrates court with the petty criminals who are there regularly. The outcome? My husbands death wasnt mentioned and all the accused got was a £300 fine and 6 penalty points. How to you explain that to 2 fatherless children, that their daddy's death meant nothing in our justice system. They can make all the glossy adverts they like- road death victims and their families will never get justice
Martin in Coleraine wrote (187 days ago):
Shocking 6months? For some poor girls life?people get that for anti social behavour
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