Grandmother knocked down and killed as she went out for dinner

Editorial image
Editorial image

A motorist who knocked down and killed a grandmother heading out for dinner has been given 200 hours community service.

Jaime Alexandra McMaster, 37, was also banned from getting behind the wheel for 18 months over the collision in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim that claimed the life of Marcella Allen.

The 55-year-old pedestrian sustained fatal head injuries after being struck while crossing the road with a friend at Rodgers Quay in September 2015.

McMaster, of Castlemara Drive in the town, pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving.

She collided with both women within seconds of her Mitsubishi Evo pulling out from the harbour car park.

Her estimated speed at the time of the accident was around 10mph, with a panel in the vehicle having potentially acted as a blind spot.

Mrs Allen and her friend, who suffered a broken wrist, had been walking towards a restaurant in the harbour area.

No pedestrian crossing was in operation on the section of the car park at that time.

Belfast Magistrates’ Court head the deceased described as a woman “in the prime of her life” and at the centre of a close-knit family.

District Judge Amanda Henderson referred to a victim impact statement from Mrs Allen’s husband setting out the full extent of their pain and loss.

“Nothing this court can do can turn back the clock or heal the wounds of that family,” she stressed.

Defence counsel Stephen Toal said McMaster, a mother of two teenage girls, has become reclusive and suffers from anxiety.

Offering his client’s deepest apologies to the Allens, the barrister said: “She is completely devastated and only wishes she could turn back time.

“Their loss is acutely felt by her every day since this accident occurred.”

McMaster’s previously normal life “collapsed” after the collision, according to Mr Toal.

“She has developed a psychotic disorder... her confidence and sense of self have been completely shattered,” he added.

The judge ruled that the driving went beyond momentary inattention.

She said the car park exit involved an error or judgment and failure to pay sufficient attention.

But based on McMaster’s early guilty plea, and sentencing guidelines for magistrates’ court cases, any custodial sentence would only involve days or weeks behind bars.

Mrs Henderson emphasised that such a term could “trivialise” the offence and cause further suffering for the Allens.

Imposing 200 hours community service and an 18-month disqualification from driving, she said: “Nothing the court can do, or say, or sentence will alleviate the grief of the people in front of me.”

Expressing amazement that there had not been a pedestrian crossing, the judge added: “I’m advised this has now been rectified.

“While this is cold comfort to the victim’s family, it should hopefully prevent any such tragedies happening in future.”