Ardglass woman fined for causing death of friend

Ardglass woman fined for causing death of friend

16 November 2011

A 19 year-old Ardglass woman has been fined £2,500 for causing an accident in which her friend was killed.

Alana Kennedy was also banned from driving for five years for causing the death of 18 year-old Megan Nash on Downpatrick’s Ballytrim Road on December 19, 2009.

At an emotional hearing in Downpatrick Crown Court on Wednesday, Kennedy, of Sheepland Road, pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving.

The court heard Kennedy, Miss Nash and another friend, Miss Cheryl Grieves, had been for a drive to Newcastle and Castlewellan, and were going back to Killyleagh via Downpatrick and Crossgar when the collision occurred.

Kennedy, who had only passed her driving test two weeks before the accident, was driving her Ford Ka towards Killyleagh when she lost control on a bend, crashing into an oncoming car.

Miss Nash, from Killyleagh, was a rear seat passenger and she sustained a fractured skull when her head hit the vehicle’s central pillar.

Miss Grieves, Miss Nash’s cousin was a front seat passenger in the car and had warned Kennedy of the upcoming bend and that she needed to slow down. “She did slow, albeit that Miss Grieves remembers thinking if she went a little slower it would have been better,” said a prosecution lawyer.

There was no suggestion Kennedy, a restricted driver, was speeding at the time, he said.

In a statement, Miss Grieves said she saw her cousin’s face illuminated by headlights and they both grabbed each other’s hand.

Defence counsel Eugene Grant QC said Kennedy was under the misapprehension there were lights from a car travelling in the other direction which caused her to misjudge her exit from the bend.

“It’s a tragedy based on inexperience,” he added.

He said Kennedy had not over corrected, but was making a purposeful manoeuvre to steer right.

Mr. Grant highlighted the fact that the road was dark and narrow with high boundaries, and Kennedy had never driven on it before.

“She had passed her test two weeks before. She lacked experience and was not familiar with the road. Her speed appears to be below her restricted level of 45mph.”

He pointed out that Kennedy suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and psychological problems as a result of the incident.

“The remorse level in this case to the victim’s family is extremely high,” he added.

In his sentencing remarks, Judge Smyth said the case, “a complete and utter tragedy”, had given the court “some considerable difficulty”.

“It’s not completely clear why the car driven by Alana Kennedy touched the near side verge but it was that which caused the over steer.”

The judge added that the female driver of the other vehicle had no time to react and could not have done anything to prevent the collision.

Of the charge Kennedy faced, he said: “It is a serious offence but to my mind does not cross the custody threshold. That does not make it any easier for the relatives of Megan.

“I accept that there is remorse, I can see that and I don’t believe Miss Kennedy is unaffected by this. It will be something that will bear upon her forever.

“This serves as a salutary warning to all of us that driving is something that is to be approached with care.

“To those who have lost a daughter or a sister, the court simply says this — the penalty is not the measure for the loss of a life.”

Addressing members of Miss Nash’s family, the judge concluded: “The court’s sympathies are with those people who have suffered such a tragic loss.”

The judge said he had been moved by victim impact reports provided from members of Miss Nash’s family, especially that of her father.