NI: Father of drink driver victim calls for sentencing reform
Calls to reform the laws on sentencing have been made by the father of Enda Dolan, an 18-year-old killed by a drunk driver in Belfast.
The driver, 31-year-old David Lee Stewart, was sentenced to three-and-a-half-years in prison accompanied by a three-and-a-half-year licence upon release.
Enda’s father, Peter Dolan, has called for politicians to come together and reform the legislation which allows for such lenient sentences, creating new laws which will impose much tougher consequences.
Currently, the maximum sentence which can be issued to a drunk driver who has knocked someone down killing them is 14 years.
Mr Dolan said: “We have had 108 MLAs appointed to our assembly. We will thrown down the gauntlet to those MLAs and ask them to change the sentencing from 14 years to 20 years.
“There is no reason why that can’t be done. It is important. There is no deterrent and 14 years of a maximum sentence isn’t sufficient under the current law.”
Former Justice Minister David Ford thinks that the Assembly does have the power to change the law.
“That is what we did in the last assembly term over the issue of sentences for animal cruelty,” he said.
“Clearly if we increase the sentence then it sends a message to the judges that there is an expectation on the part of the public that higher sentences will be given, but it does still very much remain with the individual judge on every individual case.”
Enda Dolan died after being carried 800 yards on a van driven by drunk driver David Lee Stewart in October 2014.
Mr Stewart consumed a total of 13 drinks, including six pints of beer, four Jagerbombs, and a mix of energy drink and spirit before taking control of the vehicle. The court went on to hear that traces of the class A drug cocaine was found in his system.
The passenger present in the van at the time of Enda’s death was given 50 hours community service.
The Dolan family, from Killyclogher near Omagh, County Tyrone, have received numerous letters, cards and messages of support and outrage at the leniency of the sentence.
One letter sent by former Transport Minister Danny Kennedy read: “Dear Peter and Niamh, I want to take this opportunity on behalf of my family to express out disgust at the sentences handed down to those responsible for the death of your much loved son, Enda.
“I was genuinely shocked and very disappointed at the disgraceful verdicts and I want to assure you that I believe those feelings are held right across the community in terms of the decision.”