Grieving dad appeals to public to back life sentences for killer drivers

Peter Dolan and his family speaking after the drunk driver who killed his son''Enda had his sentence increased to eight years in 2017. Photo: Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Peter Dolan and his family speaking after the drunk driver who killed his son''Enda had his sentence increased to eight years in 2017. Photo: Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

A father whose son was killed in an horrific drink driving incident has called on the public to tell a sentencing review that NI should adopt life sentences for killer drivers.

Last week Nathan Phair, 23, from Lisnaskea was given an 11-years for death by dangerous driving while Padraig Toher, 29, from County Cavan was given 12 years for manslaughter. Phair’s passenger Natasha Carruthers, 23, was killed after the two men were involved in a high speed chase.

Peter Dolan from Co Tyrone believes they may well be record sentences for NI - but still feels they fall too short.

His son Enda, 18, was killed in 2014 by a drunk driver who was given seven years, later increased to eight on appeal.

“Firstly, sympathies to the Carruthers family on the tragic death of Natasha,” he said. “We are slightly encouraged to see the length of sentence has been increased and that manslaughter charge has been applied. However there is a long way to go until the punishment reflects the crime.”

He said it was still unclear to them how a killer driver could qualify for the maximum NI sentence of 14 years.

And he complained that the general public is not aware of an ongoing public consultation which could help bring NI into line with the life sentences available in England.

“I would like to appeal to the public to read and comment on this document and indeed attend the public consultation events in order to reinforce the point that the current sentencing laws are too lenient,” he said.

He urged the public to scroll to chapter 10 of the document to complete the survey. “Together we might be able to make a difference.”

Former Justice Minister Claire Sugden echoed his concerns and hoped a future minister will reform the “outdated” system. She said: “Victims and victims’ families are hurt and the public frustrated when they hear of a sentence handed down that doesn’t reflect the crime committed.” she said. As Minister of Justice she announced a sentencing review, though she is “disappointed that it has taken the Department of Justice (DOJ) over three years” to move on it.

The DOJ says it launched the sentencing review consultation with a press release in October and that it will consider all responses after it closes on January 6. The last public event is December 4 in Clifton House, Belfast. Register at www.eventbrite.co.uk

The consultation can be seen at https://consultations.nidirect.gov.uk/doj-corporate-secretariat/sentencing-review-northern-ireland/

Or, write for a copy from, Sentencing Review Team, DOJ, Stormont Estate, Belfast.