Northern Ireland

Belfast driver sentenced over pedestrian's death

Laganside Courts
Image caption The case was heard in the Crown Court at Laganside

A Belfast man who admitted causing the death of a pedestrian, who was knocked down and killed, has been sentenced to three years and six months in prison.

Stephen McManus, 24, from Breda Park, will spend 21 months in prison and 21 months on licence upon his release.

He pleaded guilty to causing the death of Niall Harrigan by dangerous driving.

Mr Harrigan, 25, was struck by the Subaru Impreza driven by McManus at Cromac Street on the evening of 18 May 2012.

The victim had been living in Belfast at the time of the incident but was originally from Armoy, County Antrim.

Belfast Crown Court heard that the "essence of the dangerous driving was the excessive speed" at which McManus was driving.

Impact

A forensic report calculated that the car was being driven at a speed of between 45 and 67mph in a 30mph zone.

A prosecution lawyer said Mr Harrigan had just started to cross the road when he was hit by the Subaru.

"Such was the impact that he was thrown into the air and projected forward into the oncoming lane, causing him to land on the bonnet of a Hyundai car," the lawyer said.

He said six off-duty doctors, who happened to be passing, came to Mr Harrigan's aid, as did members of staff from the nearby fire station.

"So violent was the collision of the Subaru with Mr Harrigan that he had sustained the gravest injuries," he said.

Mr Harrigan was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital, but despite the "strenuous efforts" of all the medical personnel, he was pronounced dead in the early hours of 19 May.

The prosecution lawyer said several witnesses who saw the Subaru in and around Cromac Street prior to the collision, described the car as being driven at speed, and at one point "undertaking a taxi".

'Awful tragedy'

McManus admitted to police he may have been driving over the speed limit and subsequently pleaded guilty to a charge of causing death by dangerous driving.

A defence lawyer told the court the "essence of the dangerous driving is the element of speed".

Branding the incident as "an awful tragedy," he said McManus had expressed "instant and real remorse".

"When he was told, he had to have a priest brought in to him, so upset was he by what he had done." the defence lawyer said.

"When he learned of the death, the doctor had to be called to the police station... so affected was he, not for himself, but for what he had done."

The trial judge told McManus that due to the eye-witness reports and the forensic report, it was clear he was driving at "greatly excessive speeds", adding she accepted his "genuine shock and remorse".

Speaking after sentence was passed, Andrina McManus, the sister of Stephen McManus, said: "We are all upset that Stephen has to go to jail, but we fully understand that Niall's family will never see him again.

"We want to express our absolute, sincere and deepest sympathy to Niall's family."