Published Wednesday, 22 January 2014
Darren Conway leaves court after admitting causing the death of a toddler. (© Pacemaker)
Darren Conway's trial got underway at Downpatrick Crown Court on Wednesday morning, but after the prosecution opening, defence lawyer Chris Holmes asked for the charge to be put to him again and the 32-year-old admitted causing the death of two-year-old Rham Gavriel Alvarez by careless driving.
Judge Piers Grant told shop fitter Conway that his change of heart was a "wise course of action" and that he was sure "the next of kin will take great comfort in the plea".
The trial had opened with prosecuting lawyer Sam Magee urging the jury that despite the case surrounding the tragic death of little Rham and the obvious emotions that would evoke, "you must not let sympathy or prejudice cloud your judgement".
The barrister recounted 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 Limetree Residential Home and across the busy road, missing all the other traffic and hitting the buggy, causing injuries to the little boy which would tragically prove fatal.
Mr Magee said it was the Crown case that by failing to fully engage the handbrake on his car Conway, from Rutherglen Gardens in Bangor, had made an "obviously careless mistake" which had had devastating consequences.
Conway, he told the jury, 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.
At the scene, he told witnesses and police that he "must've forgot to put the handbrake on," but Mr Magee told the court forensic engineer Emmerson Calendar had examined his car and found that of the possible 13 "notches" of tension, Conway had raised the handbrake just two of them.
Mr Calendar, the jury heard, took the VW Golf back to the scene and parked it where Conway had "on a slight incline," reporting later that having ratcheted the handbrake up two notches only a little force, even a "strong gust of wind would have been sufficient" to start the car rolling backwards.
Once it did that on 29 December, the car rolled down the drive and "gathered momentum" before ploughing into Rham's buggy.
His mother told police that as she walked along the road, "all of a sudden and without warning a white car appeared, it came out of nowhere" and pushed both her and the pram against a fence.
"She quickly freed herself and undoubtedly using a mother's instinct, grabbed Rham from his buggy," said Mr Magee, sadly adding that it was "immediately obvious that he was seriously injured."
An off duty doctor and a fireman tended to the little boy at the scene until paramedics arrived and rushed him to the nearby Ulster hospital but despite the medics best efforts, "he tragically died the next day."
Arrested and interviewed, Conway said it would have been an "automatic reaction" to put the handbrake on and that he could not understand why the car had moved.
Following his guilty plea, Judge Grant disqualified Conway from driving and adjourned passing sentence until both a pre-sentence report and victim impact statement from Rham's mother have been compiled, releasing Conway on bail until next month.
© UTV News