Northern Ireland

Fatal Dundrod crash: Suspended term for men who were in stolen car

Subaru Impreza wreckage Image copyright PACEMAKER
Image caption The wreckage of the Subaru Impreza car that was involved in the crash in which two men died

Two men who were passengers in a stolen car crash near Dundrod, County Down, in 2010 that killed two of their friends have been given suspended sentences.

Belfast men, Kevin Valliday, 27, and Francis Martin Lavery, 31, admitted aggravated vehicle theft.

The driver and front seat passenger died in the crash and a fifth passenger was left with serious injuries.

The judge said he had considered genuine expressions of remorse and bereavement during sentencing.

Conor Rules, 23, was driving the vehicle on 28 June 2010, when it crashed on Leathemstown Road, near Dundrod.

He, the front seat passenger, Patrick McAllister, 25, and Mark Smith, 24, were taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Mr Rules and Mr McAllister died in hospital.

At an earlier court hearing, Valliday, from Cullingtree Road in Belfast, and Lavery, from Stewartstown Road in the city, admitted two offences of aggravated vehicle theft causing death. Their 15-month jail sentence was suspended for three years on Friday.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption The driver of the vehicle, Conor Rules, died as a result of the accident

Mark Smith, 24, from Brompton Park in Belfast, was so severely injured in the accident, the Public Prosecution Service decided to drop charges against him.

The sixth passenger, Mark Toner, 31, had also admitted the same offences of aggravated vehicle theft, but he later died as a result of a drugs overdose.

Accident

A prosecution lawyer said that neither the defendants nor the deceased were involved in the initial theft of the powerful Subaru Impreza, which was stolen from outside a house in Lisburn two days before the fatal car crash.

Mr Rules had come into possession of the car at some stage after its theft.

The six men were on their way from a party to Mr Rules' parents home in Dundrod, when he lost control of the vehicle. The car ploughed into a field where it overturned with enough force to throw some of the occupants from the vehicle.

Police said the crash was "an horrendous scene".

They found Mr Smith, Mr Rules and Mr McAllister unconscious in the field.

Mr Toner tried to run away from the scene, but fell as a result of his injuries. A police sniffer dog found Valliday hiding in a ditch. Lavery was also quickly apprehended by the police.

Valliday told his probation officer "there was total carnage everywhere" in the field.

Judgement

A toxicology report indicated that Mr Rules had not been drinking or taking drugs.

The prosecution lawyer said: "It appears simply that this car was travelling too quickly for the bend in the road that they came upon and simply lost grip, with catastrophic consequences."

The judge at Craigavon Crown Court said there was no evidence that either Lavery or Valliday were "actively encouraging" their friend to drive dangerously.

He said he was suspending their terms for three years because of the "exceptional and tragic circumstances" and because the pair had been engaging so well with probation.

He also imposed a two-year driving ban, and said he was taking account of the men's previous convictions and the loss of life, as well as guilty pleas and genuine remorse.

He said: "The interests of justice are better served by something left hanging over their heads to ensure that both continue to take positive steps."

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