Johnston Press, which owns newspapers across the UK including the News Letter and the ‘i’, has been running a ‘Drive for Justice’ campaign calling for stiffer sentences for killer drivers.
The campaign, which included a petition handed to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), resonated in Northern Ireland where there was Province-wide outrage at the light prison sentence given to the man who killed the student Enda Dolan in 2014.
Dolan, 18, was knocked down by David Stewart, of Gray’s Park Avenue in Belfast, who was under the influence of drink and drugs. His original sentence, after conviction for the killing, was later increased due to a successful appeal from prosecutors for being unduly lenient, from three-and-a-half years in jail to four and a half years behind bars.
While the increase was widely welcomed, it is still seen as inadequate for such a reckless crime that had such devastating consequences.
The Johnston Press campaign is timely, because the MoJ is announcing stiffer sentences for car crime today for England Scotland. The maximum sentence in the worst cases will rise from 14 years to life, such as driving under the influence of drink or drugs.
Had this been the sentencing position in Northern Ireland when Stewart carried out his crime, he would be facing a much longer prison sentence than even his increased term for such shocking driving, including carrying Dolan on the roof of the van for 800 yard along the Malone Road after the student had been struck.
In another case last month, a man in Northern Ireland got only four-and-a-half years behind bars for a race in which he clipped a car that he was racing, leading to two deaths.
The MoJ announcement in London is welcome. Let us hope a general sentencing review in Northern Ireland results in something similar with regard to killer drivers.