A GARVAGH man was given a suspended jail sentence for killing a 17-year-old Loreto College student by driving without due care and attention.
At Antrim Crown Court on Friday, 56-year-old Philip Christopher Mullan was sentenced by Judge Philpott for the road traffic incident in which Eamon McIntyre was killed on December 17, 2008.
Members of Eamon McIntyre’s family were in court including his parents and his girlfriend. Members of the Mullan family sat on the opposite side of the court room.
The court head that the defendant was driving a seven and a half tonne Ford tipper lorry while the deceased was the driver of a Vauxhall Zafira, belonging to his mother.
Prosecuting counsel outlined the details of the incident which happened at 6pm on the Boleran Road in Garvagh.
The court heard that Eamon McIntyre was driving his girlfriend, Jane Molloy, to meet a bus in order to travel to the Loreto College student formal. He was a restricted driver who had passed his driving test just a few weeks before the incident.
The court was told that the defendant had been at a haulage yard on the Boleran Road and emerged from the yard to turn right. The car struck the rear of vehicle, swerved to the left, hit a grass verge, then crossed the road and struck a garden wall.
Mr McIntyre died at the scene from his injures and his girlfriend sustained a fractured sternum and ribs.
The lorry was said to have spun 180 degrees and was extensively damaged. Police officers spoke to the defendant at the scene and he was said to have been visibly shaken.
The prosecution said the road was dark but lit by surrounding residential and commercial properties. The visibility for vehicles emerging from the yard was said to have been blocked by a large tree, fences and a sign.
On December 30th, 2008, the defendant was interviewed. He said he looked in both directions before accelerating across the road in second gear.
He admitted seeing a vehicle coming from the Garvagh direction and said he thought it was far enough away to make the manoeuvre safely.
Prosecution added: “He has obviously moved from that position given his guilty plea.”
On February 4th this year the defendant pleaded guilty to causing the death of Eamon McIntyre by driving without due care and attention.
Prosecution also said that the 56-year-old defendant had a clear record and said this was not a case of alcohol or mobile phone use.
Victim Impact Statements from Eamon’s parents and girlfriend were also quoted in court.
Mr McIntyre’s girlfriend,Miss Molloy, said she still had flashbacks and was still upset by the incident. Mr McIntyre’s parents said that they knew Mullan had not set out to deliberately cause them pain and added that they were sure that he himself had suffered because of the incident.
Defence for Mullan said that he would keep his remarks short at his client’s request because anything he could say would “fall short” of the trauma caused to the McIntyre family.
“There will not be a day in the defendant’s life that he does not wish that he didn’t make that manoeuvre but had waited for the car to pass.
“This has had devastating repercussions.
“What makes it worse is that it is such a close knit community and that the family and defendant know each other well.”
The defence barrister said that Mullan had even taken an interest in the late Eamon McIntyre’s Gaelic football career.
“One sometimes struggles to see remorse in defendants but in this case this man is devastated by what has happened,” said the defence barrister.
“Anything I will say is not by way of mitigation but to outline to the family, the devastation he feels about it.
“Anything he feels is nothing compared to what this family has had to suffer.”
The barrister said that Mullan was a married man with a family who had an exemplary work record as a driver.
He told the court that Mullan was so devastated by the incident that he turned to drink for six months before his family spoke to him about the issue.
He was said to have spent hours crying and expressing his grief about the incident and going to Eamon’s graveside.
Mullan’s wife is said to have described him as a “broken man” who is genuinely remorseful.
“He is aware that he will lose his licence but that is a small penalty compared to what this family have had to suffer. It is a very sad situation and there is nothing I can say that will alleviate that.
“We can only hope that today will close a chapter for this family. It will not close the book.”
The defence barrister also said that the defendant was saddened that, by not pleading guilty at the first opportunity, he had caused more grief and distress to the family.
Judge Philpott said that the onus was on any driver emerging from a side road or drive way, not to inconvenience any other road user who has right of way.
“It was a wet road, on a dark December night. You saw some headlights and like many drivers thought it was safe. Sometimes people make these manoeuvres and it is just fortunate that an accident does not occur.
“You have been driving without blame for over 30 years and I will take that into account however on this occasion your emergence was unsafe.
“You saw the lights. You should have waited.
“I have no doubt that if you could rewrite what happened, you would.”
However, said Judge Philpott, “for whatever reason you did not plead guilty at the first opportunity.
“This court this week indicated that for victims in cases such as these, it does not end until they have had a trial.
“This happened in 2008 and we have heard Miss Molloy say that she doesn’t understand why it has taken so long to get to today.
“She hasn’t been able to move on like her friends. I’m not surprised.
“She was in the car. She saw precisely what happened. You [Mullan] weren’t in the car.”
The Judge also referred to Miss Molloy’s feelings that “the delay in bringing this case has sullied Eamon’s name.”
She also quoted Eamon’s parents who said that they regretted that Mullan had not accepted responsibility at an earlier opportunity.
Judge Philpott said the defendant was a family man who would understand what the loss of a son would mean.
While Judge Philpott acknowledged that the charge was at the lower end of the scale, she sentenced Mullan to one year imprisonment suspended for 18 months “to mark the seriousness of what has happened. I do not think a fine is appropriate.”
Mullan was also disqualified from driving for the minimum term of 12 months.
Judge Philpott said that she was imposing the suspended sentence because “in my view, where your culpability was low, it was still present. You made the decision.
“When you start to drive again that suspended period of six months is still there as a reminder of how careful you have to be when driving.”
Judge Philpott said that she had come to the Antrim Crown Court division just four weeks ago and in that time had four similar cases before her.
“This is careless driving but careless driving can cause death or serious injury,” she said.
She also addressed the issue of the delay in the case coming to trial.
While an earlier plea from Mullan would have expedited the process, said Judge Philpott, court time was also a factor.
She said that in the future she wanted every effort to be made to ensure that cases like these were given priority because of the situation the families are left in.
Addressing the McIntyre family who were in court, Judge Philpott said: “A kind of justice has been done for your son now. As the Lord Chief Justice of England said ‘No matter what, this can’t restore human life.’
“I’m sure you and the defendant wish that it could.”
‘We were privileged to be Eamon’s parents’
THE parents of Eamon McIntyre who was killed in the incident on the Boleran Road in 2008 said they were “privileged” to have been his parents.
At the sentencing of defendant Phillip Mullan at Antrim Crown Court on Friday, statements from Eamon’s parents were read in court.
They said that Eamon, who was just 17 when he was killed in the traffic collision, was a “much loved son” who was gifted and an active member of his community especially in Gaelic football circles.
The court heard that a charity called the Eamon McIntyre Fund has been established in the Loreto College student’s memory.
A statement from Eamon’s parents continued: “We are proud and privileged to have been his parents.
“We accept that his death was a tragic accident.
“We know that he [Phillip Mullan] did not set out to cause us pain.”
Mr and Mrs McIntyre were also said to have acknowledged that the defendant had suffered too as a result of the incident. They said that they forgave him and bore him no ill will.
PSNI Inspector Michael Daly who was the Senior Investigating Officer commented after sentencing: “Today’s result brings to a close what has been a lengthy and difficult time for the McIntyre family.
“Eamon was in no way at fault on that terrible night and it is a tragedy that his young life was cut short in this way. Eamon will never be forgotten by those who love him – his family and his friends.”