Suspended jail term over tot's car death

Published Wednesday, 26 February 2014
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A man whose car killed a two-year-old boy when it rolled backwards has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Suspended jail term over tot's car death
Darren Conway was given a suspended sentence. (© Pacemaker)

Judge Piers Grant told 32-year-old Darren Conway he was suspending the jail sentence because he had pleaded guilty, had expressed genuine remorse and because his culpability in not fully engaging his handbrake was low.

As the mother and foster parents of little Rham Gavriel Alvarez sat listening just a few feet away in the public gallery at Newtownards Crown Court, the judge said it was widely accepted that no matter what approach the court took, "human life cannot be restored nor can its loss be measured by the length of a prison sentence."

Judge Grant told the court it was clear from their "moving, courageous and dignified" victim impact statements that their loss was "clearly enormous, has had a devastating effect."

"Their grief at the loss of a little boy who was effectively a son to both families will remain acute for a very long time, if not for the rest of their lives," said the judge adding that Rham's death in December 2012 was "an irreplaceable loss".

He told the court: "It is quite clear that this little boy was a source of great joy to both sets of parents and their families."

Half way through the first day of his trial last month shop fitter Conway, from Rutherglen Gardens in Bangor, pleaded guilty to causing Rham's death by careless driving on the Comber Road in Dundonald on 29 December 2012.

The jury heard then and Judge Granted recounted on Wednesday how Rham's mummy Imelda was pushing his buggy along the Comber Road in Dundonald on a "blustery" afternoon at the end of December 2012 when Conway's Volkswagen Golf "careered" into them, wedging the pram and her between the rear bumper and a fence.

The car had silently rolled backwards from the Limetree Residential Home and across the busy road, narrowly missing all the other traffic and ploughing into the buggy, causing "catastrophic" injuries to the little boy which would tragically prove fatal.

Rham was just two years and five months old at the time.

Conway, the jury heard, had been at the nursing home visiting his grandfather when he parked his car, smoked a cigarette and then went inside and knew nothing of what happened until he "heard a commotion" outside, telling a witness at the scene that he must have forgotten to put the handbrake on.

The VW Golf was examined by a forensic engineer who found that of the 13 possible notches of tension, Conway had lifted the handbrake just two clicks and it was the Crown case that failing to fully engage the handbrake on his car Conway had made an "obviously careless mistake" which had had devastating consequences.

Judge Grant said Conway's actions were careless in that he failed to carry out any of the three Highway Code instructions for parking in an incline - fully engage the handbrake, leave the vehicle in gear and to turn the wheels so that if the car does roll, it goes into the kerbside.

As the car rolled silently backwards, Rham's mum "had no warning and no opportunity to save him," said the judge adding that Imelda Alvarez "was fortunate not to have sustained significant injury" given that the car hit her as well.

"I have no doubt that it was your failure to take these basic precautions that resulted in the runaway car and caused the collision," he told Conway.

The judge revealed that the grief suffered by Rham's family was made all the worse as a year before he was born in August 2010, his big sister Lindsay tragically died but he accepted that Conway himself will also "have to carry a considerable burden" knowing that he had caused a little boy's death.

Judge Grant said he also accepted Conway's remorse and regret was genuine and that he hoped "this will help Rham's families to cope with their great loss".

"No sentence imposed by me will bring this child back and do little to repair or remove the upset suffered by them," he told the court.

As well as the suspended jail term, Conway was banned from driving for three years and Judge Grant issued a stark warning that any reoffending, especially if he drove, would result in him being brought back to court facing "an almost inevitable" jail sentence.

Afterwards none of Rham's relatives wished to comment and neither did Conway.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Garth in Bangor wrote (337 days ago):
Firstly my heart goes out to both families. What terrible accident which has changed their lives forever. No words can describe what these families are going through. It seems to me the legal system is chasing easy targets. This fella wasn't in the vehicle, his handbrake was on. Just a terrible accident. This fella is my age and I was certainly not taught to put the car in gear. Just so sad for all concerned
Belfast in Belfast wrote (338 days ago):
Heartbreak all round! Its a case of small minors becoming a major! I really hope all concerned can rebuild their lives. RIP little man
Lee in Belfast wrote (338 days ago):
'Careless driving' by the nature of the term means driving on a road. The fact in this case was the driver, innocently omitted to fully engage his handbrake which was without intent. However a guilty plea entered by the driver who was not in the vehicle at the time was acknowleged for not 'fully engaging the vehicles handbrake'. This is a devastating tragic accident. This man will libe with this for the rest of his life. god bless all involved.
marc in bangor wrote (338 days ago):
Dont c y he didnt get jail he still killed a child no matter what the cause was.It was still his fault.
mark in dundonald wrote (338 days ago):
how sad for all concerned.
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