Jail term for driver after crash leaves man in wheelchair

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A County Armagh man was handed a sentence of four years and eight months today (Monday) for causing a collision which left another man in a wheelchair.

David Anthony Joseph Barry’s unsafe BMW ploughed into another man’s car after he jumped a red light trying to flee police during a high speed chase across Belfast last year.

Barry (23), of Parkmore, Craigavon, pleaded guilty at Belfast Crown Court to causing grievous bodily injury to the other motorist by dangerous driving. He further admitted driving with no licence, without insurance and with excess alcohol.

He was informed by Judge Patricia Smyth that he will spend half of his sentence in prison, with the remaining two years and four months on licence upon his release. Barry was also banned from driving for five years.

Belfast Crown Court heard that such was the force of the 60mph side impact that the other motorist - who was wearing a seatbelt - was catapulted from his Peugeot car and landed on a pavement where he was found unconscious and suffering from horrific fractures and internal abdominal injuries.

This week Mr O’Hare travels to London for further surgery on his life-changing injuries but the court was told he will never work again as a result of the smash.

During the plea and sentencing hearing, Judge Patricia Smyth addressed the victim and told him: “I appreciate that there is no sentence I can pass that can change things that have happened to you and I deeply regret that.”

Sitting in the body of the court in his wheelchair listening to proceedings through a head set, he replied to the judge: “Thank you.”

Prosecutor Philip Henry told how police on patrol at 1.20am on February 21, 2016, noticed a BMW car driving along the Ballyclare Road in Glengormley with no rear number plate and its “mud flaps hanging off.”

During a subsequent police chase, with sirens and blue lights, an experienced PSNI pursuit driver followed Barry’s BMW out of Glengormley down the Antrim Road, onto the Shore Road and back out of Belfast City centre and onto the Antrim Road again.

The court was told Barry jumped two red lights, mounted a pavement at a roundabout “narrowly missing a police car that had stopped” and had hit speeds of up to 70mph.

Mr Henry said Barry failed to stop and police deployed a stinger device at Floral Road at is junction with the Antrim Road close to Belfast Zoo.

But Barry failed to stop and hurtled up into Glengormley village, passing patrons on the footpath who had just left a local bar and restaurant.

Seconds later, Barry passed through his third red light of the pursuit at the Hightown Road junction at an estimated speed of 60mph - twice the 30 mph limit.

Said Mr Henry: “The injured party was coming out of the Hightown Road in his Peugeot car and his son was in the passenger seat.” The prosecutor said that after the impact, both cars ended up facing in the same direction.

At the time of the incident, the injured man was 59. Despite wearing a seat belt, he was thrown from the vehicle and was found lying on the pavement. In a victim impact statement, he said the first he remembered after the collision was “waking up in hospital and screaming in pain”.

“The victim impact speaks for itself,” Mr Henry told Judge Smyth. “His injures were serious and very restrictive. This week he is to go to London for pre-planned surgery.”

His son, who now acts as a carer to his father, sustained rib injuries in the crash.

Barry was arrested at the scene and taken to hospital by ambulance accompanied by the PSNI. En route, he was “abusive to both police and ambulance personnel”.

Judge Smyth was told Barry’s BMW was examined by an expert who said it was “in a poor condition, three of the tyres were worn, one of which was a space saving spare tyre.” She also heard he was “just above” the legal drink drink limit, with a reading of 93 milligrammes in a 100 millilitres of blood.

Mr Henry said Barry, who was well known to police, had previous convictions for dangerous driving, careless driving, driving without insurance and no driving licence.

The prosecution listed a number of aggravating features in the case including causing the other motorist grievous bodily injury by dangerous driving; driving with excess alcohol in his breath; driving a motor vehicle in a poor condition; driving with no insurance; his previous convictions for motoring offences and failing to stop.

“There was also a prolonged police pursuit and that he was trying to get away from police,” said Mr Henry.

In mitigation, he added that Barry had pleaded guilty and had also made admissions at police interview and had also “expressed remorse...and wanted to send flowers to the complainant”.

Terry McDonald QC, defending, told the judge: “In making this plea, I do so against the backdrop that a person has suffered very serious injuries as a consequence of an episode of bad driving at the hands of my client.”

He said Barry had witnessed domestic violence in his home at a young age from his father which, according to medical reports, had had a lasting impact on his mental health.

“He pleaded guilty and there should be credit for that guilty plea and the victim was spared going into the witness box.”

Mr McDonald added that at the time of the collision Barry was “under the influence of intoxicants” but since going into prison he “found the detoxification process very difficult and required medical treatment to help him... and since leaving alcohol behind, one can only be struck by the clear transformation”.

Sentencing Barry, he was told by Judge Smyth that it was surprising others were not hurt due to his driving on the day in question. Regarding the injured man, the Judge told Barry: “Every aspect of his life has been affected by your reckless behaviour.”