Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Woman pleads guilty to causing death of farmer by careless driving

The lawyer for a Newry woman who caused the death of a farmer through careless driving said his client’s actions “will live with her for the rest of her life”.

In Newry Magistrates Court on Wednesday last, Nicola Evelyn Watson (25) of Patrick Street, pleaded guilty to causing the death of Patrick Gerard Lively on August 15th 2016.  The 60-year-old farmer died when his tractor collided with a Volkswagen Polo driven by Watson on the Bryansford Road, Hilltown.

Prosecuting lawyer Charles MacCreanor QC told the court how Mr Lively, a married father-of-two, had just finished preparing a field for baling and was heading home for his tea when the accident happened.

Watson had come up behind his tractor and had begun to overtake it on a bend approaching a crossroads when Mr Lively turned right, veering across her path and the collision occurred.  The impact caused the tractor to topple over and it fell on Mr Lively, trapping him underneath.

According to a forensic expert, there were no road signs warning drivers of the approaching crossroads and the indicators and brake lights on the tractor “did not operate” when he examined it after the crash.

At the scene, Watson told another driver “he turned across me” and when questioned by a police sergeant, she replied: “I was coming behind him.  We were both heading the same direction.  He went to swoop left but I don’t know if he was going left or that was him going right or whether he changed his mind at the last minute and I didn’t have time to slow down and I hit him.  I don’t know what point of the tractor I hit.”

Referring to potential aggravating factors, Mr MacCreanor told the court that speed was not one as a forensic expert estimated the car was travelling at around 25mph in the 60mph zone and the tractor was travelling at 10-15mph.

Addressing the court, Mr MacCreanor said: “It appears to be the case where there are no aggravating factors that we rely on.  The matters that we ask the court to consider is that the carelessness of overtaking at a crossroads when approaching a blind bend with a slow moving vehicle which on her own account, she wasn’t sure which way that vehicle was going.”

Defense lawyer Patrick Lyttle QC said the basis of his plea was that “it’s not a case for an immediate custodial sentence” given the lack of aggravating factors and the momentary inattention that caused the collision.

Revealing that Watson attended the same school as the victim’s daughter, Mr Lyttle said she had “demonstrated significant remorse and insight” into the consequences of her mistake.

Describing her as a “decent hard-working individual”, Mr Lyttle said Watson “will never be back before the courts”.