A County Tyrone man who admitted causing the death of a pedestrian in a horrific crash by driving a pick-up truck dangerously has been jailed for three years.
Ciaran Lee Wootton (26) from Main Street, Newtownstewart also accepted causing the death of Elaine McGarrity by driving while uninsured and after taking the Toyota Hilux without the consent of the owner.
Mrs McGarrity (54) was walking along Brownlink Link, Irvinestown at 9am on 31 December 2021 when she was struck by a pick-up driven by Wootton.
Arrested at the scene, it further emerged he did not have permission to drive the vehicle.
The victim, a mother of two and grandmother of four, passed away having sustained very severe injuries.
All charges were admitted at Dungannon Crown Court where prosecution counsel said Wootton had driven without a clear view through his windscreen which “out of sheer laziness” he had not cleaned.
He had also claimed to have been driving at around 10mph and the victim “ran out in front of him” but forensic examination disproved both points.
Defence counsel stated, “My client never meant this terrible accident to happen. He is genuinely sorry and accepts full responsibility for the consequences of his driving.”
Conceding some accounts within Wootton’s police interviews were untrue, the defence urged this be viewed in the context of, “A man dealing with the consequences of what he had done … He caused this accident. It should not have happened. It was his fault. No blame whatsoever is attached to the victim.”
The defence pointed to the impact the incident has had on Wootton’s mental health which he continues to struggle with
Judge Brian Sherrard noted at the point of collision Mrs McGarrity, “Became trapped under the vehicle which continued driving a further 50 metres before coming to a stop … She died rapidly as a result of severe chest injuries.”
Addressing Wootton he said, “The sole reason for this tragic turn of events was your failure to clear the windscreen of frost and condensation. You did not have the visibility required to drive safely and didn’t see Mrs McGarrity. Moreover the vehicle was in your possession for valeting and you were not insured nor had you permission to drive.”
He continued, “You told police Mrs McGarrity ran in front of your vehicle which skidded on the application of brakes. This notion was maintained for some time, as was the false contention of traveling at 10mph and your windscreen visibility, although you later accepted these points were incorrect. This entirely avoidable incident led to the death of a woman who was a valued and cherished member of our community.”
Judge Sherrard noted Wootton had “Turned to alcohol as a means of coping following the collision which in turn led to further offending.”
He said, “Your behaviour was highly culpable. You chose to drive when visibility was impacted. There can be few more dangerous actions than to drive blind down a busy road. I consider the claim of Mrs McGarrity running out in front of you as a sustaining attempt to place blame on a victim … You were not entirely candid in interview.”
It emerged Wootton has a history of driving offences which have led to disqualification and even in while the case was pending he was before the court in 2022 and 2023 for motoring matters.
Jailing Wootton for three years imprisonment to be divided equally between custody and on licence, Judge Sherrard also imposed a three year driving disqualification adding, “This was a catastrophic one-off incident but you continue to appear in court for road traffic offending, indicating there is a need to protect the public.”
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere
SUBSCRIBE TO CURRENT EDITION TODAYand get access to our archive editions dating back to 2007
(CLICK ON THE TITLE BELOW TO SUBSCRIBE)