A man who drove into a crowd of people while on his way home from an Orange Order parade, has been given a two year custodial sentence, to serve one in custody and one on licence. Judge Patricia Smyth stated that continuing to drive after striking several pedestrians was an aggravating factor in the offences of causing grievous bodily harm by dangerous driving; the defence that the man was in a “threatening” situation was identified as a mitigating factor in considering the starting point for his sentence.
On 13 July 2015, Mr Aughey was driving home from an Orange Order parade, the Court heard that as his car got caught up in traffic he was identified as a member of the Orange Order by members of a crowd gathered at the Ardoyne shops.
At this point, a bottle was thrown at Mr Aughey’s car and one member of the crowd approached his vehicle and kicked at the wing mirror.
Mr Aughey did a U-turn and struck a number of people including Phoebe Clawson who slipped off the bonnet and fell underneath his car. Despite police officers banging on his car window and shouting at him, Mr Aughey continued to drive and Ms Clawson was dragged until the car stopped moments later.
Ms Clawson suffered a shattered pelvis, a broken collar bone and a broken ankle.
At his trial, Mr Aughey’s defence was that he was put in fear by the actions of some members of the crowd and that he genuinely and reasonably believed that he had no choice but to drive as he would otherwise have been killed or seriously injured.
This defence was rejected by the jury; however, it was emphasised that it was never the prosecution case that Mr Aughey deliberately drove into pedestrians or that he intended to hurt anyone. The issue was that he had caused serious injury to others by driving in a manner which fell far below that to be expected of a competent and careful driver irrespective of any lack of intention to cause harm.
Mr Aughey was convicted by a jury of one count of causing grievous bodily injury to Phoebe Clawson by dangerous driving, two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm to Roisin McGlone and Andrew George, and three counts of assault in respect of Kiera Moss, John O’Hara and Mark Richardson.
The prosecution submitted that this was a case where Mr Aughey’s driving fell into the “higher culpability” bracket, and identified 3 aggravating factors:
- Mr Aughey drove in a manner which involved him driving into a crowd on or adjacent to the road in circumstances where the inevitability of collision should have been glaringly obvious;
- More than one person was injured albeit not seriously;
- Mr Aughey drove on after the collision for a perceptible distance despite efforts by police to stop him; to say that he was unaware that he had collided with multiple victims was “an affront to common sense”.
Judge Smyth considered that Mr Aughey’s behaviour in continuing to drive after the collision despite clear indications by the police to stop was an aggravating factor; CCTV confirmed the close presence of police officers as they tried to stop his car, some of whom were injured as they did so.
The agreed medical evidence did not suggest any reason why he would have been unaware of the collisions as they occurred or the efforts of the police to stop his car.
It was also noted that Mr Aughey “struggled to identify any possible long-term consequences to the victims in any detail and appeared “somewhat detached” from the impact on others”.
It was submitted that Mr Aughey’s absence of any relevant convictions, his previous good character, his genuine shock and remorse, his loss of employment, and the impact on his and his wife’s health, were all mitigating factors to be considered.
Describing the circumstances as “unique”, Judge Smyth stated that “a powerful mitigating factor” in terms of culpability was that Mr Aughey would have continued his journey home but for the fact that he found himself in a threatening situation.
As sentencing guidelines state that culpability must be the dominant factor when the offence involves no intention to kill or injure.
In all the circumstances, Judge Smyth considered that the case fell into the category of intermediate culpability and as such the starting point was 2 to 4 ½ years in prison.
Considering the aggravating factor that Mr Aughey continued to drive after the initial collision, and the mitigating factors including the threatening circumstances which were the catalyst to the offences; Judge Smyth concluded that a starting point of two years’ imprisonment reflected Mr Aughey’s culpability.
Mr Aughey was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment, 12 months on licence, and was disqualified from driving for two years.
- by Seosamh Gráinséir for Irish Legal News