Tyrone drink driver ‘deep remorse’ over Donegal GAA fan’s death

Road traffic accident happened on the Melmount Road outside  Sion Mills.
Road traffic accident happened on the Melmount Road outside Sion Mills.

A Co Tyrone man was two-and-a-half times the legal drink drive limit when he killed a popular Donegal GAA fan in a head-on collision.

Omagh Crown Court heard yesterday that Paul Nicholl, 50, lost control of his Suzuki car after hitting a kerb and careering into a car carrying Patsy McCroary, his wife and two children over two years ago.

Nicholl, of Carnkenny Road, Newtownstewart, had pleaded guilty to causing the death of 62-year-old Mr McCroary by dangerous driving with excess alcohol and causing grievous bodily injury to his wife and children.

An avid GAA fan, Mr McCroary was known affectionately as ‘Donegal Patsy’ because of his passion for his native team.

He had been living in Castlederg but was originally from Upper Art, Castlefin.

Just days before the crash, he attended the Dr McKenna Cup game between Donegal and Tyrone in Letterkenny and was described as “Donegal’s number one supporter”.

The fatal collision happened on the Mellmount Road between Sion Mills and Victoria Bridge on January 8, 2014.

Prosecution lawyer Simon Reid said Nicholl had no previous convictions for road traffic matters but had a criminal record for assaults and criminal damage.

The judge was told that the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving while under the influence of alcohol was 14 years in custody after a contest.

Describing Nicholl’s culpability as high, Mr Reid said he believed the defendant’s offending could be categorised in the intermediate range of the sentencing guidelines, with a starting point of seven years, and a sentencing range of between six and 12 years.

But he added that because Nicholl had “pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity he was entitled to a significant discount” on his sentence.

Barrister Ivor McAteer, defending, said Nicholl had a long history of dealing with his “alcohol demons” and was “deeply remorseful” for causing the death of Patsy McCroary and seriously injuring his wife and two children.

“He does not row back from his culpability and there is no trying to deflect or diluting the pain and hurt felt by the family of Mr McCroary.

“It is a heartfelt approach by him and I was specifically requested to say that.”

Judge Ramsey QC said he wanted to reflect on legal submissions by both the prosecution and defence.

Remanding Nicholl back into custody, the judge said he would sentence him next week.