Northern Ireland

Killer driver sentence was 'unduly lenient'

The Court of Appeal has been told that a 16-month jail sentence for a civil servant who caused death by dangerous driving was "unduly lenient".

Portavogie man Steven Warnock crashed his Honda Civic into John Cully's car outside the town in April 2009.

The 20-year-old was killed instantly and a passenger in 25-year-old Warnock's car was seriously injured.

The Director of Public Prosecutions brought the appeal against Warnock's original sentence.

The three judges hearing the appeal were told that Warnock had been showing off when he caused the accident but that he had shown genuine remorse for what had happened.

Earlier this year Warnock, of Main Street, Portavogie, pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and causing grievous bodily injury by dangerous driving.

He was given a 16-months sentence, half of which was to be served in prison and half on licence.

Appealing the sentence on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Gerry Simpson QC claimed the speed Warnock was driving at on the wrong side of the Bog Road was an aggravating factor.

Mr Simpson pointed out how one witness said in evidence: "The noise (of the engine) was scary fast. It made be feel that something was going to happen."

He added: "This is not a case where the sentence could be described as anything other than unduly lenient."

Warnock spent several weeks in hospital himself following the accident.

His barrister, Adrian Colton QC, told the court he completed a victim impact course in prison and enlisted for a restorative justice programme.

"That reflects what the trial judge said about this man, this is a man of worth, integrity and industry who, tragically on this occasion, acted completely out of character," Mr Colton said.

He argued that the speed he had been driving at formed the basis for the dangerous driving charge, rather than a further aggravating factor.

"The court may take the view that the trial judge was lenient, but certainly not unduly so," Mr Colton added.

The three judges hearing the appeal, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, Lord Justice Higgins and Lord Justice Girvan, reserved their decision.