A 43-year-old Co Tyrone car dealer whose careless driving caused the death of a pensioner and injured three others, including his own wife, in a three-vehicle smash, has been freed on the maximum of 240 hours community service, and given a three-year driving ban.
Freeing Damien Maguire, from Knockonny Road, Ballygawley, Judge Neil Rafferty QC told the devastated family of 69-year-old pensioner, and well-known restaurateur Eileen Maguire, “nothing I can say or do can bring back Eileen Maguire” or could heal or cure the hurt caused that November evening in 2013, outside Fivemiletown.
The Dungannon Crown Court judge said he was “left with the firm view that justice cannot be served by a sentence of four months” and taking advice of senior law lords, and having stood back and thought “very long and hard”, he would impose the community service order.
Judge Rafferty said: “The one thing I will take away from this case is just simply how unfair life can be.
“Everyone in this case is entirely decent and honest hard-working human beings and not deserving of the misery that occurred.
“I genuinely hope that the Maguire (victim’s) family take some comfort and move on from the loss of a mother and wife.”
Earlier he told Maguire that while he had no “visual cue” in the eight to 10 seconds before the crash, he had seriously failed to appreciate that the cars in front “were getting closer and closer and closer” regardless of “whether or not brake lights were illuminated”.
The judge said that as a result, “there was a serious head-on collison”.
Judge Rafferty said having “given careful thought” to the circumstances he concluded that “the defendant’s driving falls into the middle category” of carelessness.
Maguire, he said, deserved credit for his guilty pleas, in addition to which was his pre-sentence report which spoke “of a man of 43, married, and father of three children, aged 11, nine and six”, and whose wife, like himself, was seriously injured in the crash.
Prior to the tragedy, said the judge, Maguire, the owner of TC Autos in Omagh, “lived an absolutely blameless life, he has succeeded in business, and contributed to the community, engaged in charitable work”.
Judge Rafferty also told the family of Mrs Maguire he wanted to say “from the outset” that their victim impact reports, which he had read and re-read, were “some of the most moving, sensitive comments I have read of this type”.
Acknowledging the “absolute sense of loss ... and level of pain and devastation” felt by the whole family, the judge said he had to adhere to “certain guidelines” in deciding on the appropriate sentence.
However, he added: “I wish to say this, and I wish to say this absolutely clearly to the victim’s family, having read what I have read, it paints a very clear and well-coloured picture of Eileen.
“I can only say that she strikes me, through your words, of having been an absolutely devoted mother, a loving wife and a truly, truly decent lady.”
In addition to his guilty plea to causing the pensioner’s death, Maguire also admitted causing grievous bodily injury to Mrs Maguire’s husband James, their son Connor and his own wife Joanne, as a result of the collision on the Belfast Road in Fivemiletown on November 1 2013.
Those injuries, said the judge, have been both “serious and life changing”.
The car dealer, added the judge, was also injured, but “there was absolutely nothing prior to this that was remarkable to the defendant’s driving in any way. He was driving at a safe distance and within the speed limit”.
However, while Maguire pleaded guilty, the court heard last week he later blamed an unknown “dark vehicle” for the fatal crash.
This claim was dismissed by prosecuting QC Richard Weir who told the court an “investigation showed no question of anything like that happening,” and the tragic collison was down to a “prolonged” lapse in concentration on the part of the car dealer.
Mr Weir said after initially telling police he had “clipped” a car in front, causing his vehicle to veer into the path of the Maguire Volvo, he later said he was unnerved by an overtaking car which had “cut in”, causing him to swerve into the oncoming traffic.
In turn, however, defence counsel John McCrudden QC rejected the contention that his client “tried to blame someone else for setting up this tragic situation”, or that he deliberately tried to mislead the police, and that he would go to his grave with the perception that a “black car” had been there cutting in and out of the traffic.
The court had also heard that Eileen Maguire, no relation, the owner of The Oaks restaurant from Lisnarick, was being driven home by her husband and son in their Volvo car, after attending her brother-in-law’s funeral in Belfast.
She sustained multiple injuries in the collision and “sadly and tragically” medical intervention failed and she died at 9pm that night.
Maguire and his wife Joanne also both suffered a number of injuries, including a broken pelvis and back injuries. While they had to be cut from their Renault Scenic, their three young children, then aged from three to seven, escaped uninjured, although left shocked.
They had been visiting friends in Enniskillen and were returning home when the collision happened.