herald

Saturday 25 January 2020

Speeding hit-and-run driver punched outside court before being jailed over boy's death

Paul Henry and other family members of Lee Henry (13) leave court after Dean Shelley was found guilty of dangerous driving causing death
Paul Henry and other family members of Lee Henry (13) leave court after Dean Shelley was found guilty of dangerous driving causing death

A driver who caused the death of a teenage boy in a hit-and-run has been jailed for eight months.

Lee Henry (13) and a group of his friends were running across a road when he was struck by a VW Golf driven by Dean Shelley (29).

Investigations later determined that the car was driving as fast as 80kph in a 60kph zone.

The investigator concluded that it would be very hard to see anyone running from the side owing to hedging and the layout of the road.

Distress

Shelley, of Casement Road, Finglas West, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to careless driving causing death and failure to stop on the R139 road, in Coolock, on October 22, 2016.

Passing sentence yesterday, Judge Karen O'Connor said the case was aggravated by the nature of the offending, the distress caused to the family and the accused driving in excess of the speed limit.

She said the mitigating factors were Shelley's guilty plea, his admissions, his presenting himself at a garda station, his troubled background, impressive work record and significant remorse and regret.

Judge O'Connor sentenced him to 18 months' imprisonment, but suspended the final 10 months on strict conditions including that he follow all Probation Service directions for 12 months after his release.

After the sentence was handed down, a man attempted to move toward the area in the court where Shelley was standing, but other people held him back.

A second man was stopped by a garda as he reached the dock and brought to the ground.

Before sentencing, Paul Carroll SC, defending, said his client was assaulted outside the court. He said his lip was cut and he was punched.

At an earlier hearing, Detective Sergeant Noel Smith said a group of four teenage boys ran across the road as Shelley approached the pedestrian crossing at around 9pm.

He said Shelley's car struck Lee and carried him for some distance on the bonnet before he fell onto the road.

Lee was attended to at the scene by emergency services and pronounced dead at Temple Street Hospital at 12.15am.

Shelley did not stop and was pursued by gardai to the back of the nearby Clare Hall housing estate where he abandoned his car and climbed over a wall.

Officers found his wallet and driving licence in the car.

There was considerable damage to the bumper and the windscreen had "basically caved in" on top of the driver.

Panicked

Shelley went to Finglas Garda Station with his father at around 11pm and informed officers he thought he had hit someone or something.

In interview, Shelley said he panicked and drove away because his tax disc had expired.

He has 12 previous convictions, for offences including drugs possession, no insurance and other road traffic matters.

In a victim impact statement read out in court, Lee's mother said her son was the youngest of four brothers and loved being a big brother to his little sister.

She said he got high marks in secondary school and wanted to be a solicitor or a judge.

The court heard that before he left home he said: "Love you, Ma, I'll be home in a while, leave my dinner in the oven". His mother said these were the last words her son said to her.

She said that when the family arrived at the hospital, they were told that Lee had suffered a catastrophic brain injury and that nothing more could be done for him.

The family got to sit with him for a while, give him a kiss and say goodbye.

Det Sgt Smith agreed with Patrick Carroll SC, defending, that there was another incident in the area moments before the accident and that the four boys went over to it out of curiosity.

One of the teenagers gave a statement to gardai in which he said the group were told to leave the area. He said a garda van began driving toward them and they ran as they thought they were being chased.

Det Sgt Smith also agreed with Mr Carroll that the boys had run across the road without waiting for the traffic lights to change and that Shelley had a green light.

Mr Carroll said his client was the father of a young son and apologised for what he did, particularly leaving the scene without trying to help.

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