Men on drink and drugs binge caused death of Constable Reynolds

COURT IN DERRY'Derry no24-11/2/2013-TREVOR MCBRIDE PICTURE�'25 year old Shane Christopher Frane who appeared at court in Derry in charges relating to PSNI Constable Philippa Reynolds death-see story George Jackson
COURT IN DERRY'Derry no24-11/2/2013-TREVOR MCBRIDE PICTURE�'25 year old Shane Christopher Frane who appeared at court in Derry in charges relating to PSNI Constable Philippa Reynolds death-see story George Jackson

The two men in the stolen car which killed Constable Philippa Reynolds last February had been drinking and taking drugs all day, Derry Crown Court heard today.

Prosecution QC Terence Mooney told the court that the Toyota Landcruiser was driven at speeds of up to 80mph and went through two sets of lights before it collided with the unmarked armoured police car.

Constable Reynolds, who was in the back seat, was killed in the crash, which happened inthe Dales Corner area of the Waterside on February 9th last year. She was 27 and from Crumlin in County Antrim.

Two other police officers in the car were injured.

Shane Christopher Frane, whose address was given on court papers as c/o Maghaberry, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Constable Reynolds.

Frane (26) also admitted burglary, criminal damage and further driving offences, including driving whilst unfit.

His co-accused, 24-year-old Conor Tyrone Clarence, of Bonds Hill, admitted aggravated vehicle-taking causing death, burglary and criminal damage.

The court heard the men were on a “dangerous combination” of drink and prescription drugs on the night of the fatal collision. Frane had consumed 60 tablets.

Judge Philip Babington offered his condolences to the family circle of Constable Philippa Reynolds. Family members were in court for today’s hearing.

Mr Mooney told the court Frane and Clarence, after drinking and taking drugs all day, decided to steal a car to go to Limavady.

They attempted, unsuccessfully, to steal a Citroen Saxo and caused damage to it.

The men then broke into a house on Fountain Hill, stole keys to the Toyota and stole it.

After the fatal crash, Frane and Clarence were arrested on the morning of February 9. During a police interview, Clarence admitted he was a passenger in the stolen car but Frane denied all the allegations.

Frane requested a further interview at a later stage and made full admissions, claiming that his driving was “ridiculous”.

He told police: “I am very sorry for what I did to this officer. It wasn’t my intention to do it. I’m not into stealing cars and driving around like a lunatic. It’s not me. There is nothing I can say that is going to make it any better but I am sorry for what I did.”

Mr Mooney said it was the prosecution case that Frane had shown “total disregard for the safety of other road users” and his driving “fell shockingly below standards”.

He told the court Frane, who has been assessed as posing a risk to the public, has an extensive criminal record. The barrister described the 26-year-old as “incorrigible” and someone who is “unwilling to reform”.

Referring to Clarence, the barrister said he had a minor role in the incident. However, he said that because the 24-year-old has issues with drugs and alcohol, there is a risk of him committing further offences.

The court was told the only mitigating factor is that the Reynolds family and the surviving police officers involved in the collision have been spared the “harrowing ordeal” of a trial.

Eilis McDermott QC, defending Frane, said the tragic consequences of this incident have had an effect on him.

She added that he is aware that “he is not suffering the sort of grief the Reynolds family are suffering. He knows they are suffering as a result of his actions.”

Ms McDermott revealed her client has written a letter to Constable Reynolds’ family but this has not been sent.

“It will only be sent if there is an indication that the family are willing to receive it,” she added.

The barrister also told the court that Frane believes the probation assessment that he is dangerous is a fair one and he “is not asking the court for mercy or compassion in sentencing”.

Billy McCrory QC, defending Clarence, said the 24-year-old has “expressed his extreme and profound remorse and regret about the terrible tragedy that occurred on this night”.

Adjourning sentencing, Judge Babington said he would like some time to consider all the submissions.

He added: “I think it is appropriate the court expresses sympathy and condolences to Philippa Reynolds family circle at this time.”

Frane and Clarence were remanded in custody and will appear in court again on February 4. The judge said he was aware this was close to the anniversary of Constable Reynolds’ death but told the family that the case will be concluded on that date.