A south Armagh man who killed two people in a road crash over five years ago has succeeded in having part of his seven-year sentence suspended on appeal.
John Woods (aged 40) was convicted of the manslaughters of Kevin O’Malley and Eamonn Curran after the BMW X5 jeep he was driving went out of control at Dowdallshill, Dundalk in the early hours of February 5, 2005.
Woods, of Upper Fathom Road, Killeavy, had plead not guilty to the double manslaughter but was convicted by a Dundalk Circuit Criminal Court jury in February last year.
The court heard that only massive speed could have caused the amount of damage that occurred in the multiple-collision incident.
The Court of Criminal Appeal found today that Judge Michael White had erred in failing to affirm where he believed the offence lay on the scale of seriousness for sentencing.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan, sitting with Mr Justice Daniel Herbert and Ms Justice Mary Irvine said that trial judge had also made an “unfortunate” remark where he asserted he would impose a sentence greater than that which he would normally hand down for an offence of dangerous driving causing death.
Mr Justice Finnegan said that the judge’s remarks made it appear that he had regard to the appropriate sentence for dangerous driving causing death before imposing a higher sentence for the manslaughter verdicts.
He said that the court was satisfied it was appropriate to consider where this offence lay on the scale of sentencing for manslaughter, which ranges from non-custodial sentences to those of 12 years or more.
Mr Justice Finnegan said Judge White also failed to give appropriate consideration to the fact that Woods presented himself to gardaí, who were acting under the belief that the late Mr O’Malley was the driver of the SUV, and identified himself as the culprit.
He said that, although Woods had initially fled the scene of the accident and absconded to the North, without his belated actions there was a possibility he would have escaped identification, prosecution and conviction.
Mr Justice Finnegan said that although Woods deserved some credit for admitting to being the driver of the SUV, it would not interfere with the seven-year sentence imposed.
However, he said the court would suspend the last two years of the sentence for a period of two years.
Mr Justice Finnegan said the court would not interfere with the 15-year driving ban on Woods which Judge White had also imposed.