A man whose dangerous driving caused eight deaths has been sentenced to eight years imprisonment with the final four suspended following a finding by the Court of Appeal that his original two-year jail term was too lenient.
Shaun Kelly (27), of Hill Road, Ballymagan, Buncrana, Co Donegal, had pleaded guilty at Letterkenny Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of eight men on a road between Clonmany and Buncrana on July 11, 2010.
He was sentenced to four years imprisonment with the final two suspended by Judge John O'Hagan in December last. He was also disqualified from driving for 10 years.
The Court of Appeal set aside Kelly's sentence yesterday following a successful application by the Director of Public Prosecutions on grounds that it was "unduly lenient".
Accordingly, the court re-sentenced him to eight years' imprisonment with the final four suspended.
Giving judgment, Mr Justice George Birmingham said Kelly's culpability was very high and the harm caused was enormous. It was the worst road traffic accident in the history of the State, he said.
The court fixed eight years as its starting point having regard to the multiple fatalities, the prolonged and persistent period of deliberate bad driving, overtaking in a dangerous fashion, failing to adhere to a warning from another road user, and Kelly's previous conviction for dangerous driving.
There were significant mitigating factors present such as Kelly's youth and his plea of guilty. He had also sustained significant injuries and although there was disagreement as to their extent, Mr Justice Birmingham said it was not something that could be minimised.
He said the attitude taken by the families of the young men was "extraordinarily generous in their approach".
It's clear there was real remorse, he said, and he referred to a document handed into court by one of the victims' families that morning which stated that Kelly had "now served five-and-a-half years of a life sentence".
He said the two-year suspended period imposed by the Circuit Court "would not be inappropriate".
However the court suspended a further two years in light of the "bitter disappointment" the outcome must have on somebody well into their sentence with a release date in sight and in light of documents handed into court by some of the victims' families which was highly relevant in considering the time and circumstances of his guilty plea.
The court did not interfere with the 10-year disqualification because, the judge said, he had been earning a living in transport and increasing the disqualification "might hamper rehabilitation".
Kelly was required to enter into his own bond of €100 to keep the peace and be of good behaviour while in custody and for four years post-release.
When asked if he undertook to be so bound, he said "yes".