A 23-year old man who killed his friend in a drunken car crash on the outskirts of Belfast and who then fled the scene was handed a five-year sentence on Wednesday.
Ciaran Paul Ferris-Farrelly took his father’s car after consuming 10 beers, one shot of Goldschlager and two lines of cocaine. He lost control of the Peugeot 406 estate on the Upper Springfield Road, resulting in his friend John Paul McShane being thrown from the rear of the vehicle.
Ferris-Farrelly - who at the time of the fatal crash held a provisional licence only - was informed by Judge Gordon Kerr QC that he will serve half his sentence in prison, with the remaining two and a half years spend on licence upon his release.
During today’s sentencing at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Kerr also banned the 23-year old father of one, from Lagmore View in Dunmurry, from driving for five years.
Judge Kerr said that following the fatal smash in June 2014, Ferris-Farrelly “fled the scene, leaving someone he described as a friend dead as a result of his behaviour”, and that since the collision Ferris-Farrelly has provided “no rational explanation” for doing this.
Regarding the deceased, the court heard that both the family and friends of 18-year old John Paul McShane have been left devastated by his death.
Judge Kerr said he read a Victim Impact Report on John Paul’s mother which sets out “the indescribable hurt and destruction” her son’s death has caused. In the report, she talked about her son’s “caring and living nature” and said he gave “joy and happiness” to all those who knew him.
The Judge said: “She also spoke of the help he gave to others and the cross-community work he did and wished to pursue in the future.”
Judge Kerr also referred to a “moving statement” made on behalf of John Paul’s friends, saying the pain felt by his loss “stretched well beyond the family”, as well as a reference made on behalf of the Springboard organisation which “attests to the excellent work and attitude” displayed by the deceased.
“It is clear this young man’s death was a sad loss to the community as a whole”, noted Judge Kerr.
Ferris-Farrelly admitted a charge of aggravated vehicle taking causing death, as well as failing to report an accident, driving with no insurance and driving with excess alcohol.
The fatal collision occurred on the morning of June 22, 2014, following a house party.
Ferris-Farrelly’s parents were in Dublin, and in their absence he held party in the family home. Drink was consumed, and at around 7am someone suggested going and getting more alcohol.
Ferris-Farrelly then took his father’s Peugeot, and while he drove the car John Paul sat in the back with a third man in the front seat. The trio left Lagmore in the car to go looking for an off licence, but were unsuccessful.
As the car was being driven along the Upper Springfield Road, Ferris-Farrelly lost control at a bend which caused the front of the car to smash into a telegraph pole. The Peugeot then spun which caused the rear of the car to collide with a kerb.
While the front seat passenger was thrown into the back seat, John Paul was thrown from the car as the back window smashed and the back door opened. He died at the scene.
Both Ferris-Farrelly and the front seat passenger got out of the car and when they released their friend was dead, they fled the scene.
Despite this, Ferris-Farrelly went to the police later that afternoon. He told police that after the crash, he got out of the car and starting calling for his friend. When he located John Paul lying on the road, he felt for a pulse on his neck. When he could feel no pulse, he shouted out to a woman at a nearby house, asked her to ring for an ambulance, then he panicked and ran away.
In the aftermath of the crash, Ferris-Farrelly expressed remorse for his actions and said he would have to live with what he did for the rest of his life.
His defence barrister described Ferris-Farrelly as a “very inexperienced driver” at the time, and said he was not driving aggressively, using his mobile or speeding - it was rather a case that he misjudged the corner and lost control of the vehicle.