remorse | 

Man involved in high-speed car chase that killed woman to have jail term reduced

Nathan Phair (27) drove into a tree as he tried to evade Padraig Toher, who he had just swindled in a cocaine deal

Padraig Toher

Alan ErwinBelfast Telegraph

One of the men who caused the death of a young mother during a high-speed car chase in Co Fermanagh is to have his prison term reduced, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Senior judges cut Padraig Toher’s sentence from 12 to 11 years because of his remorse and admissions to the manslaughter of 23-year-old Natasha Carruthers.

But they rejected a separate challenge by the victim’s drug dealer boyfriend to the 11-year term imposed on him for the fatal crash near Derrylin in October 2017.

Nathan Phair (27) drove into a tree on the Lisnaskea Road as he tried to evade Toher, the man he had just swindled in a cocaine deal.

Nathan Phair at a previous court hearing.

Phair’s passenger, Ms Carruthers, was flung through the front windscreen of their Vauxhall Corsa and killed instantly.

Toher (32), from Bawnboy in County Cavan, had pursued their car in his BMW for 12 miles at speeds reaching 100mph, with the two vehicles coming into repeated contact.

A day before the crash he paid £440 for cocaine which was never supplied.

Toher pleaded guilty to manslaughter, causing grievous bodily injury by dangerous driving, perverting the course of justice and conspiracy to possess a Class A drug.

In 2019 he received a 12-year term, half to be served in custody and half on licence, and banned from driving for 10 years.

Ruling on Toher’s appeal against sentence, Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan held that he should have been given a greater discount for his genuine contrition, immediate admissions and cooperation with police.

“The sentence should be reduced from 12 years by a further year to one of 11 years to reflect the issue of an early plea of guilty and remorse,” she confirmed.

Natasha Carruthers . The mum of one died in a car crash on the Newbridge Road near Lisnaskea. Her vehicle collided with a tree shortly before midnight on Saturday.

Phair, from Castlebalfour Park in Lisnaskea, denied the charges against him but was convicted by a jury of causing Ms Carruthers’ death by dangerous driving, causing grievous bodily injury to another female passenger, supplying Class A drugs and further motoring offences.

He was given an 11-year sentence, split equally between custody and on licence, and disqualified from driving for 15 years.

With an earlier appeal against Phair’s conviction already thrown out, the court today dismissed the challenge to his prison sentence.

Dame Siobhan highlighted evidence of him being a cocaine dealer who had drugs in his system when recovered from the wreckage of the car.

The judge was also “greatly troubled” by two separate domestic burglary convictions for which Phair had been dealt with leniently.

Both incidents involved targeting vulnerable and elderly victims in their rural homes at night, including a 96-year-old woman who was blind and hearing impaired.

“Therefore, we consider that the total sentence of 11 years was appropriate in Phair’s case,” the Lady Chief Justice said.

The court did, however, reduce his motoring ban to 10 years, in line with Toher’s disqualification period.

Dame Siobhan acknowledged: “The tragic circumstances of this case will remain for the victim’s family and no sentence will change that.

“We have allowed the appeals in the limited respects to correct the errors in sentencing we have identified in the specific circumstances of this case.”

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