Friday 22 February 2019

Judge frees driver 'weighed down' by killing pal

Seosamh McGonigle was spared jail time by a judge
Seosamh McGonigle was spared jail time by a judge

A Judge has freed a dangerous driver after he said he will be "weighed down" by killing his friend.

Seosamh McGonigle sped away from a pub in Inishowen, Co Donegal, before killing his friend John Hegarty a short time later.

McGonigle (19) was driving at speed before he hit a grass verge, lost control of his Toyota Corolla and then crossed the road and struck a large boulder.

McGonigle and his front seat passenger survived the smash but Mr Hegarty (21) who was not wearing a seatbelt in the back of the car, was killed.

McGonigle pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death and having no insurance when he appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court.

Judge John Aylmer said as there were no witnesses to the accident, it was difficult to establish what the exact circumstances of the crash were.

He said evidence had been given of two cars speeding away from the Foot Inn in Burnfoot in July 2015, but said it was not possible to establish the identity of these cars.


He said that normally such an incident would merit a sentence of two years in prison but he must take into consideration that McGonigle had no previous convictions, was of impeccable character and had pleaded guilty. He said he was reducing the sentence to 16 months.

However, Judge Aylmer said he believed that this was one of those "rare and tragic cases" which could be better dealt with with a non-custodial sentence.

"He is on the cusp of his life and I accept he will be weighed down dealing with the death of his friend," he said.

He suspended the entire jail sentence for two years, ordered McGonigle to undertake the Pro Social driver's course and banned him from driving for six years. The accused man's family wept as the sentence was passed, while Mr Hegarty's family left the courtroom.

Mary Hegarty had previously paid tribute to her late son at the court as harrowing details of the night on which he was killed were revealed.

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