The family of a young girl who was hit by a car on Benone beach have called for safety measures to be put in place to protect people on the beach.
Richard and Diane Wilkinson spoke to the Journal after the sentencing of Paul John Doherty – pictured.
The 31-year-old from Ballynahone, Fahan, Co. Donegal received a determinate sentence of three and a half years. The Wilkinson family said the sentence handed down to Doherty sends a ‘strong message’ to others they will not get away with driving like this on a beach. Mrs Wilkinson, who had been a regular at her family caravan at Benone for the last 30 years, said she will not feel safe going back to the beach. Doherty pleaded guilty to a total of seven motoring offences on July 21, last year. Derry Crown Court heard the 31-year-old had been travelling at speed and doing ‘donuts’ on the beach.
At one point, witnesses reported seeing all four wheels off the sand. Other witnesses also said Doherty’s driving was ‘totally erratic’ and he narrowly missed colliding with a three-year-old child a short time before hitting Mrs Wilkinson and her daughter.
The 30-year-old was doing handbrake turns on the beach when he collided with the mother and daughter. He then left the beach at speed.
The four-year-old was left with a broken collarbone, a black eye and cuts and bruises. Mrs Wilkinson was badly bruised and both of them were detained in hospital overnight. The court heard that police chased Doherty’s BMW who failed to stop when signalled to do so. He overtook cars on the Seacoast Road, causing other vehicles to swerve to avoid a collision. The police helicopter was deployed when it became unsafe for them to continue to follow the 31-year-old by car. He was apprehended a short time later and was found in possession of the car keys. It was clear to police that he was intoxicated and a breath test showed he was more than two times over the legal limit. The court was told Doherty has two previous convictions for dangerous driving in Buncrana, and both involved him doing handbrake turns. Judge Babington said it was ‘an appalling incident fuelled by alcohol.’ He imposed a determinate sentence of three and a half years, 21 months of which will be spent in custody and the remainder spent on licence. He was also disqualified from driving for seven years.