Jailed: Nathan Finn
NATHAN Finn has been jailed for nine years for causing the death of Armagh teenager Lesley-Ann McCarragher.
Finn was sentenced today at Newry Crown Court.
Co-defendant Damien Paul McCann (pictured below) of Lagan Road in Keady was fined £500 and banned from driving for two years after he pleaded guilty earlier this week to dangerous driving. He had originally been charged with causing death by dangerous driving
Lesley-Ann was jogging along the Monaghan Road, Armagh on 9 April 2016, when she was struck by car, which sped from the scene without stopping.
Despite being airlifted to hospital Lesley-Ann passed away from her injuries. She was 19.
The car was being driven by Finn (19) of Keady Road, Armagh. He initially denied all charges against him, but later accepted causing death by dangerous driving, causing death whilst driving without a licence or insurance, as well as failing to stop and remain at the scene of a collision, or report it to police.
McCann (31) caused the case against both him and Finn to be significantly delayed after he absconded on learning he was being prosecuted.
Both men appeared in the dock of Newry Crown Court today separated by custody staff. Finn kept his head in his hands throughout proceedings, mumbling responses to any questions put to him.
The court heard Lesley-Ann set out from her home about 12 noon, to go for a jog which she regularly did. It was the last time her family would see her. Whilst running along the hard shoulder, Finn and McCann’s cars were coming at speed. A witness described them as “racing, absolutely flying.”
Finn’s car drove aggressively into the hard shoulder as he performed an undertake manoeuvre, striking Lesley-Ann. She was thrown into the air, landing in the middle of the road. Witnesses noted Finn skidded onto a grass verge, increase his speed and drive off.
Lesley-Ann sustained catastrophic brain injuries, including multiple skull fractures. It was established she could not survive and her condition deteriorated rapidly. She passed away on 10 April 2016.
McCann, an HGV driver was originally interviewed as a witness, but later became a co-defendant.
Finn was identified and during police interview denied all allegations. He claimed as a part-time car dealer, he purchased the Saab the previous day, but sold it before incident. It transpired he had hidden it in a garage.
It would later emerge Finn contacted the previous owner, warning her if spoken to by police to tell them she "sold the car to foreigners."
Defence counsel for Finn said this case was “pregnant with emotion” and commended the dignity Lesley-Ann’s family.
He said, there was “no doubt two young lives have been significantly impacted upon”.
Finn, it was contended, is traumatised by events, crying at night and claiming “to have seen the deceased in his bedroom.”
Referring to the pre-sentence report His Honour Judge Gordon Kerr QC remarked, “I find the content helpful but the recommendations for sentencing are completely unrealistic.”
Turning to McCann, defence counsel expressed his client’s condolences to the grieving family.
He said McCann always contended he had no role in the victim’s death. The defence claimed as his client pulled out to overtake Finn who accelerated deliberately blocking McCann from pulling back in. He was required to speed up to get back in lane.
Judge Kerr noted nothing placed before him showed a direct connection with the death, but it was clear there was high speed.
He imposed a fine of £500 and disqualified driving for two years.
Turning to Finn, the judge said his case was aggravated by his persistent denials, only pleading guilty when he had no option due to the compelling evidence.
The judge read from a Victim Impact Statement by Lesley-Ann’s mother who recalled the community coming to a standstill on the day of her death.
Mrs McCarragher said the family asked for donations instead of flowers to be made to the NI Air Ambulance to provide a lasting legacy for Lesley Ann.
She concluded, “Such a waste of a life filled with promise … It is almost impossible to smile.”
Judge Kerr said Finn’s driving was extremely bad over a prolonged period.
“He had no licence or insurance and shouldn’t have been on the road at all. He struck the victim and drove from the scene. He gave a dishonest account and attempted to set up an alternative version of events. This case is at the highest sentencing category.”
Finn was jailed for nine years and disqualified from driving for six years.
He showed no emotion as sentenced was passed.