Victims' support group backs tougher sentences for killer drivers

The founder of a support group for families bereaved by road deaths has joined in criticism of the sentences handed down to two men responsible for the death of a man in Londonderry in 2013.

Wednesday, 22nd November 2017, 7:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 12:38 pm
Christopher Sherrard (right) with his father Wilson who lost his life in a road crash in August 2016, and his mother Ann

Thomas Andrew Hyndman, 27, is to serve four years in jail while Stephen Edward Joseph Magee 34, is to serve nine months behind bars, after their speeding and tailgating on the Glenshane Road near Londonderry resulted in Hyndman veering across the road and hitting David Ritchie’s car ‘head on’ in April 2013.

Mr Ritchie sadly passed away from his injuries.

His grand-daughter, Megan Kirkwood, branded the sentences a “disgrace” on Monday.

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His daughter, Karen Kirkwood, also said the “law needs to be changed and sentences increased”.

The founder of a group known as ‘Life After’, who offer support to those bereaved by road traffic collisions, has backed the family’s calls for tougher sentencing.

Christopher Sherrard, whose 60-year-old father Wilson died from the injuries he sustained in a car crash on the Foreglen Road near Claudy in Co Londonderry in August, 2016, said most families in the support group agree that sentences are too lenient.

Mr Sherrard said: “Megan and Karen have been in our group since it started about eight months ago.

“I can’t speak on behalf of everyone in the group but I know that it has really hurt the family, the sentence that the two guys got.

“There are other families here who are pushing for stronger sentences to be given. I certainly agree that the sentencing should have been much stronger in this case and I believe most families in our group share that view.”

He added: “What you have to understand is that when someone is killed, their families will never have them back.

“The people responsible will be out in just a few short years and they will get their lives back. It is not right.”

DUP MLA Gary Middleton said: “In general terms I do believe there need to be tougher sentences because we have to get the message out that it is not ok to be taking lives on the roads, especially when it is due to the carelessness of the driver.”

A spokesperson for the Lord Chief Justice’s office said: “Sentencing is a matter for each individual judge after consideration of the specific circumstances of each case.

“In calculating the appropriate sentence for the offence, the judge will have considered a range of factors specific to that case including the seriousness of the offence.”