Cloughmills mum: My driving ban cost son his life

Adam Gilmour was knocked down and killed on his way to school in November 2014
Adam Gilmour was knocked down and killed on his way to school in November 2014

A grieving mum whose son was knocked down and killed while walking to school has admitted that had she not been banned from driving her son would still be alive.

Speaking outside Coleraine Magistrates’ Court after she was handed a three-month jail term, suspended for a year, 34-year-old mother of six Sarah Hanna readily conceded that had she been allowed to get behind the wheel, “Adam would not have been killed”.

Earlier the court heard that two months before her son Adam Gilmour was struck by a car on November 11 2014, his mother was caught driving while banned on Cloughmills Main Street on the way back from doing the school run.

Banning Hanna from driving for one year and imposing the suspended term, District Judge Peter King said he extended the court’s sympathies to her but that “I trust that I never see you in court again”.

At an earlier court hearing Hanna, from the Loughill Road in Cloughmills, pleaded guilty to driving while disqualified, driving without insurance and taking her mother’s Peugeot 807 people carrier without permission on September 4 2014.

Two months after Hanna was caught behind the wheel while banned, tragedy struck when a car ploughed into her and her children as they walked to school, claiming the life of eight-year-old Adam.

He was with his mother and five siblings when they were hit from behind while walking along the Loughill Road near their home in Co Antrim at around 8.30am.

In the immediate aftermath, Adam’s big brother Kyle, the only child not to be hurt, ran to his granny’s house nearby to summon help.

Every morning, their mother walked with the children along the half-mile stretch of what locals describe as a “treacherous road” where they met the bus to take them to Clough Primary School.

It was only the month before that Hanna had urged the local education board to provide transport along the road, fearing her children would be “wiped out” unless something was done.

Likewise TUV MLA Jim Alister had written to the Education Minister John O’Dowd on her behalf.

At the time of the accident, Sarah and her family laid the blame squarely at the feet of the education board.

A 19-year-old man was arrested and interviewed about the fatal accident and yesterday a police spokesperson said that currently, “a file is with the PPS”.

In court, with Hanna using a crutch to assist her in walking, a prosecuting lawyer described how police spoke to her after she pulled into a filling station on Cloughmills Main Street.

Hanna confessed that she had been banned from driving for 18 months in July 2013 and was driving her mother’s car without permission.

Police officers spoke to her mother, who was on holiday at the time, and she confirmed she had not given her daughter permission to drive her car.

In mitigation, Hanna’s defence solicitor said there was no pre-sentence report as Hanna had been in hospital as a result of the injuries she sustained in the accident so couldn’t be interviewed by a probation officer.

The lawyer submitted that the “tragic circumstances” surrounding her son’s death had made her “fully aware of all the implications on the road,” adding that she will “never” drive again.

Sentencing Hanna, Judge King said he was not going to dwell on her personal circumstances but added there were “good reasons why people are disqualified and the courts take a dim view of those disqualified drivers getting behind the wheel of a car again”.

Leaning on her crutch in obvious physical discomfort, Hanna spoke after the court hearing admitting that “if I had not been stopped for no insurance [in July 2013] I would still have been driving” on the day Adam was killed and her other son Ryan sustained a broken leg.

She revealed that at the moment, a taxi takes Ryan and the rest of the children to school but that the NEELB are trying to stop the school transport that brings them home again.

“Jim Allister has written to them saying that I can’t walk but they don’t seem to care,” said Ms Hanna.