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Sentence for driver who caused eight deaths found to be "unduly lenient"

Shaun Kelly was sentenced to four years imprisonment with the final two suspended
Shaun Kelly was sentenced to four years imprisonment with the final two suspended

The two year jail term imposed on a man whose dangerous driving caused the death of eight people in Donegal five years ago was “unduly lenient”, the Court of Appeal has found.

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 ten years.

In October, the Director of Public Prosecutions sought a review of Kelly's sentence on grounds that it was “unduly lenient”.

Counsel for DPP, Úna Ní Raifeartaigh SC, told the Court of Appeal that it was the worst fatal collision and the worst case of dangerous driving in the history of the State.

Ms Ní Raifeartaigh said the sentence of four years imprisonment with two suspended did not reflect the gravity of Kelly's culpability and the harm that was actually caused.

Acceding to the Director's application this morning the Court of Appeal found Kelly's sentence was “unduly lenient” and he is due to be resentenced by the court next month.

Giving the court's judgment, Mr Justice Goerge Birmingham said there were factors present in the case which “jusitified, indeed required” a sentence of lower than seven years.

However, the Circuit Court judge had erred in the “double discount” of mitigating the sentence from seven to four and suspending the final two years, Mr Justice Birmingham said.

He said the sentence represented a “substantial departure” from what would be appropriate.

He said Kelly was entitled to know “his fate” and the court hoped to be in a position to impose a new sentence on him on December 7 next.

Ruaidhrí Giblin