Northern Ireland

Valerie Armstrong: Man jailed over scrambler death

Armstrong family Image copyright Armstrong family
Image caption Mrs Armstrong, a mother to three young children, died in July 2016

A teenager has been jailed for 18 months for causing the death of a woman who was struck by a scrambler bike.

Mother-of-three Valerie Armstrong, 35, died after being hit by the bike while walking in Colin Glen Forest Park in west Belfast last year.

Gary Lewis, 18, of Colinvale, Dunmurry, admitted causing her death by dangerous driving and driving without insurance.

The court heard he believed he should be jailed as community service would be disrespectful to the Armstrong family.

Mrs Armstrong, who was walking her dog, died the day after she was struck by Lewis in July 2016.

The court heard Lewis had asked for a ride on his friend's bike, but lost control when an eyewitness said he swerved to avoid Mrs Armstrong's dog.

One eyewitness said he could have been driving as fast as at 40 miles per hour, but that was disputed by the defence who said tests showed he was not doing anymore than 20 at the time.

Image copyright Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Image caption The collision happened near Mila's Lake in Colin Glen Forest Park

The judge said it was impossible to determine the speed.

The prosecution said when Mrs Armstrong was struck, Lewis was heard to shout: "She's dead, that's me away."

However, his defence counsel said other witnesses in the park said they saw him holding his head in his hands, sobbing: "Oh my God, what have I done".

He was seen placing a towel under Mrs Armstrong's head and holding her hand until an ambulance arrived.

Letter to family

The defence said he had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity to prevent any further trauma for the Armstrong family and had written a letter to the family which was handed into court, an indication, the defence said, of his remorse.

They described it as a tragic case with "no winners in this whatsoever".

The court heard that Lewis, who has seven previous convictions for non-driving offences, wanted to change his behaviour when he's released.

Sentencing the 18-year-old, the district judge said: "Human life, the life of Valerie Armstrong, can't be restored nor its loss measured by a custodial sentence.

"No term of months or years can take away their anguish."

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