Family can never forgive defendants for fatal crash

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  • Two men who caused the death of 69-years-old David Ritchie in 2013 have been jailed

The family of a man who was killed in a road traffic accident in 2013, have said they cannot forgive the two men responsible.

Speaking after the sentencing of 27-years-old Thomas Andrew Hyndman and 34-years-old Stephen Edward Joseph Magee, the family of David Ritchie said they felt nothing but ‘anger and hatred towards them.’

Mr. Ritchie died after a head-on collision on the Glenshane Road.

Hyndman, of Knockbrack Road, Ardmore, was jailed for a total of eight years, half of which will be spent in custody and half on licence.

He pleaded guilty to causing the death of Mr Ritchie by dangerous driving on April 17, 2013.

Hyndman also admitted causing grievous bodily injury to his co-accused by dangerous driving and to being a disqualified and an uninsured driver at the time.

The defendant admitted further charges of failing to remain at the scene of the accident and failing to report it.

Magee, of Ivy Mead, was jailed for 18 months, half of which will be spent in custody and half in the community on licence.

He was acquitted by a Crown Court jury of causing death by dangerous driving, however, he was convicted of causing Mr Ritchie’s death by careless driving.

Hyndman and Magee were also disqualified from driving for seven years and five years respectively.

Speaking outside the court, Mr. Ritchie’s daughter, Karen Kirkwood, said she will ‘never, ever forgive’ the defendants for what they did, adding ‘they took my father’s life away.’

Mrs. Kirkwood said her father was ‘one of the best and would have done anything for anybody’ and life for his family ‘will bever been the same again.’

She said that Hyndman and Magee had shown no consideration for anyone on the road that night and the ‘law needs to be changed and sentences increased.’

Mrs Kirkwood said the family do not accept the defendants’ expressions of remorse.

“They can get their lives back when they are released from prison but we, as a family, cannot’.

Mr. Ritchie’s grand-daughter, Megan Kirkwood, branded the sentences imposed by the court a ‘disgrace.’

“It has taken us five years to get to this point and for them to be handed petty sentences it’s not enough,” she added.

Ms. Kirkwood said the family had tried to move on but hearing all the details of the crash and the horrific injuries sustained by her grandfather brought it all back.

The family also said the crash has had a major impact on Mr Ritchie’s other grand-daughter, who was a passenger in the car and sustained minor injuries.

They said she has not been the same person since the accident and it has ‘destroyed her life.’

Derry Crown Court heard it was the prosecution case that the defendants were racing prior to the crash in which Mr Ritchie died and Magee sustained a brain injury. He has no memory of the accident as a result.

A number of witnesses gave evidence that prior to the crash, Magee and Hyndman were travelling at speed and were tailgating.

Hyndman overtook Magee as he approached a sweeping right-hand bend.

Magee then lost control of his car, veered across the road striking a crash barrier and then collided virtually ‘head on’ with Mr Ritchie’s car.

The defendant’s car then crossed the central reservation and hit a concrete post before going down an embankment.

After he realised what had happened, Hyndman returned to the scene and ‘glanced’ at Mr. Ritchie before attending to Magee.

He then left and drove his car to his father’s house.

The court heard there was ‘a prolonged and persistent course of bad driving’ by both defendants for around three miles before the accident.

During police interview, Hyndman claimed he had no contact with Magee on the day.

He also claimed his co-accused was always travelling behind him and he believed he had lost control as Magee was trying to overtake him.

However, he later admitted Magee was driving in front of him and that they were racing.

Magee provided no comment during police interview as a result of his post-traumatic amensia.

The court heard Magee had no memory from a few hours before the accident until two weeks later as a result of the brain injury he sustained.

A prosecutor said there were a number of aggravating factors in the case including driving at high speed and the fact that both men have previous motoring convictions.

It was also revealed Magee has a subsequent conviction for driving on the Glenshane Pass at 98 mph.

Both men have been assessed as posing a medium likelihood of re-offending in the future by Probation.

Passing sentence, Judge Philip Babington said “there is no doubt in my mind that the loss of control would not have happened had the defendants been driving properly.”

He referred to the evidence given by a number of eyewitnesses, who saw Hyndman and Magee driving at high speed and gave the impression of racing.

The judge said these witnesses came forward after a police appeal and it is “quite clear to me that your driving on that night clearly shocked those witnesses so much that they contacted police.”

He added: “It is also very sad that young men are prepared to drive, as you two did, on a public road.”

Judge Babington said Hyndman and Magee had been “involved in a prolonged and persistent course of bad driving which could well be construed as racing by some, or simply a course of sub-standard driving.”

The judge referred to Victim Impact Statements provided to the court by Mr Ritchie’s family.

“They all describe David Ritchie as being a lovely man, a father, grandfather and uncle who obviously meant the world to them. Unfortunately there is nothing this court can do to bring him back. I can only hope that as time goes by, the pain may lessen for you and the hearing today may help you all to some sort of closure.”

Jailing the defendants, Judge Babington stated: “This is a sad and tragic incident in which a much loved man lost his life needlessly due to the driving of the two defendants.”

He said the defendants culpability falls into the highest category of the offence they have been convicted of.

Addressing Hyndman and Magee, the judge added: “Lest there be any doubt, it was your driving on this evening that caused Mr Ritchie’s death.

“If you had been driving properly this would not have happened.

“Both of you did not give any consideration to road users on this evening.”