Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Newry man who used his mobile phone while driving is jailed for fatal crash

A Newry man who was browsing the web on his mobile phone moments before he crashed into a telegraph pole has begun a 13 and a half months sentance for causing the death of a pensioner.

Twenty one year old Edward Devlin, from Leitrim Road in Hilltown admitted driving dangerously on the Old Ballynahinch Road on the outskirts of Lisburn on October 28, 2014 and causing the death of 66 year old Leonard Bailie, who was standing at his gateway close to the pole which was struck by Mr Devlin.

Craigavon Crown Court heard that Mr Bailie was assisting a slurry tanker which was emptying a septic tank parked outside his home when apprentice mechanic Devlin mounted the grass verge to avoid a collision with a Skoda Octavia car and instead struck a pole.

Mr Bailie “was struck either by the van or the pole itself or more likely a combination of the two, sustaining serious injuries.” He died in hospital three weeks later.

A forensic engineer advised that Devlin would have had sight of the vehicles for around 300 metres and just over 13 seconds as he approached.  A GPRS device installed in the van driven by Devlin showed no evidence of excess speed.

The defendant’s phone however was found to have been used to send a text message and for web browsing during the course of his journey.

Sentencing Devlin last Tuesday, the Judge told the court that the explanation for his “catastrophic mistake” was that the phone had been “in continuous use prior to the accident itself.”

The Hilltown man had previous convictions for careless driving within a week of each other in March 2013.

In mitigation, the judge said he accepted Devlin had expressed “genuine remorse” before sentencing him to 13 and a half months in jail and the same period on licence, as well as banning him from driving for four years.