Mother of hit and run victim brands sentence inadequate

St John's Primary School pupil Caoimhe McGuinness making her First Holy Communion earlier this month- a year to the day after the hit and run accident at Creggan Heights.
St John's Primary School pupil Caoimhe McGuinness making her First Holy Communion earlier this month- a year to the day after the hit and run accident at Creggan Heights.

The mother of a Derry girl who is still being treated a year after being lifted into the air in a hit and run motorbike incident has expressed her discontent at the nine-month jail term the driver will serve.

Tracy McGuinness was speaking after David McCloskey (24) from East Avenue in Derry was sentenced for a string of offences relating to the near tragedy, which occurred at Creggan Heights on June 7th, 2013.

McCloskey was sentenced at Derry Crown Court on Tuesday to nine months imprisonment for causing grevious bodily injury to the now eight-year-old Caoimhe McGuinness by driving without due care and attention.

He was jailed for a further three months for failing to remain at the scene of the accident, and three more for failing to report it, along with two months for driving a Honda motorcycle without insurance, and three for causing grevious bodily injury while being an unlicensed driver. All the prison terms are to run concurrently, and McCloskey was also banned from driving for three years on each count, with the bans also to run concurrently.

Speaking after the sentencing, Mrs McGuinness said: “It is what we expected but we are not happy. For what Caoimhe went through it is definitely not enough.

“He is scum, there are no words for him. He is a nobody.”

She described her daughter- who made her First Communion earlier this month, exactly a year to the day after the accident- as a “wee miracle child” who was lucky to have survived.

“We didn’t know if she was going to pull through,” she said. “The time we spent up in hospital was a total nightmare.

“She is a walking miracle and that’s thanks to her, not to David McCloskey.

“She has bounced back. She doesn’t talk about it so we don’t talk about it. She knows it happened but she doesn’t remember it happening.”

Mrs McGuinness said her daughter has been left with a titanium rod in her spleen, two steel plates in her jaw and is on medication, but the family are hopeful she will eventually make a full recovery.

Calling on young people to think twice about the consequences of their actions while driving motorbikes, Mrs McGuinness said: “They don’t realise what damage they can do, they don’t realise the impact they have.”

She added that she now gets nervous when she hears motorbikes approaching.

In passing sentence, Judge Philip Babington described how children had been playing in the built up area of Creggan when McCloskey was witnessed by several people travelling at a fast pace down the street.

“The motorcycle struck Caoimhe McGuinness who was seven at the time as she was crossing the road,” Mr Babington said. “She may well have been coming out between vehicles and may well have been following another child but that does not in any way excuse the defendant’s behaviour.

“The motorcycle hit Caoimhe and she was flipped into the air and thrown a short distance down the road.

“The defendant and another male, who was the pillion passenger, came off the bike. The defendant clearly saw Caoimhe lying on the road as one witness says that both the defendant and the pillion passenger went and looked at her; the defendant then got on the motorcycle and rode off.”

The judge said that the passenger had stayed and spoke with members of the public at the scene and identified McCloskey as the driver. He was arrested at a nearby address shortly afterwards.”

The court was told that Caoimhe was left lying in the road in an unconscious state, and was taken to Altnagelvin before being transferred to the Royal Hospital. Her injuries included a fractured skull, a rupture and laceration to her spleen, a suspected laceration to the kidney, fractures to her jaw and a finger, and lung and cerebral contusions.

McCloskey denied involvement during three police interviews, but after several hours admitted he had been the driver, and said he had driven away because he panicked.

He later also expressed remorse in a Pre-Sentence Report and apologised to Caoimhe’s family.

In concluding, Judge Babington said: “In this case the defendant rode the motorcycle without a licence and without insurance and in a way that was totally inappropriate to a pleasant summer evening in a built up area in the city. If he had thought for one moment he would have realised and seen children playing and people being out and about.

“His behaviour after the incident was inexcusable as he left Caoimhe lying on the ground in an unconscious state and rode off. I know that he says he panicked but that does not take away from the point. I regard his behaviour after the incident as an aggravating factor in this case.”