A 29-year-old father-of-two wept in court as details were presented of his momentary lapse of attention whilst driving on the night he caused the death of a 50-year-old man.
Omagh man Kieran McSorley was killed outright when the Volkswagen van in which he was a passenger was hit by the Toyota Hilux pick-up vehicle of Eamon Partick O’Kane outside Ballygawley on December 17, 2015.
O’Kane, from Streefe Road, to the east of Omagh, who was given 240 hours of community service and banned from driving for two years, had pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving.
Dungannon Crown Court Judge Neil Raffery QC said today it was one of the most “tragic and difficult cases” he has had to deal with, but he was “absolutely satisfied that a non-custodial sentence is warranted”.
And he added: “I am simply struck by how the lives of two families have, in many ways, been absolutely destroyed by a momentary lack of attention, and if there is any good that can come from this, is people have to realise how dangerous roads actually are”.
Empathising with the Mr McSorley’s family on their loss, and praising their “quiet dignity”, the judge explained how he had to follow the set guidelines in determining the appropriate sentence.
And echoing the Court of Appeal, he said in such cases any custodial sentence would be for just a few weeks or months.
Earlier prosecution QC Jackie Orr told how O’Kane was giving his grandmother a lift in his pick-up when for some reason the Toyota veered across the road into the path of the Volkswagen van driven by Stephen Kees.
Ms Orr said the Toyota ended up on its side by a grass verge trapping O’Kane’s grandmother inside, and at the time a distraught O’Kane admitted he was tired, adding: “It’s my fault, I looked down, or glanced down” after his grandmother had touched his arm.
The lawyer added prior to the tragic accident there were no concerns about O’Kane’s driving, nor was their any evidence of him using his mobile phone. He was sober and carried a full licence and insurance.
Ms Orr said the death of Mr McSorley had struck many, in particular his wife Donna, who had said “just as I was his number one, he was my number one and always will be”.
Defence lawyer Ian Turkington said Mr O’Kane “is truly remorseful for what has happened,” and that it has “haunted him since”.
He added however, that O’Kane is aware that “anything he is suffering pales into insignificance to that of Mrs McSorley and family”.
While his “momentary inattention” had led to “the most overwhelming consequences,” O’Kane had a clear record with “not a single blemish or penelty point”.