Larne driver involved in ‘horrific’ crash has jail term cut by more than half

A motorist whose “horrific” crash into a roundabout left two young women badly injured is to have his jail term cut by more than 50 per cent, the Court of Appeal ruled today (Friday).

Friday, 25th June 2021, 4:19 pm

Senior judges held that the two years and two months sentence imposed on Tiarnan Looney for careless driving on the main Belfast to Larne road was excessive.

The 21-year-old apprentice joiner will instead now serve 12 months in total, divided equally between prison and on licence.

But Mrs Justice Keegan stressed that a period behind bars was still necessary for his “reckless and impulsive behaviour”.

She said: “This was a horrific incident, it was not a momentary lack of attention.”

Looney, from Victoria Road in Larne, Co Antrim, pleaded guilty to two counts of causing grievous bodily injury by careless driving.

He was also banned from driving for two-and-a-half years.

The court heard he had just picked up his cousin and her friend from a night out in Belfast when the accident occurred in the early hours of January 9, 2019.

Despite being warned to slow down earlier on their journey, Looney’s Vauxhall Corsa crashed into a roundabout at Houston’s Corner on the A8.

Both women were asleep in the back seat when the car hit the traffic island and rolled in the air.

One of them suffered fractures to her vertebrae and a finger. Her right ear was hanging off and to be reattached.

The other woman recalled the force of the impact, being upside down in the car and hearing others screaming.

She sustained two broken bones in her back which later required spinal rods and screws, glass cuts to her leg and a bruised lung.

Looney told police he had taken his eyes off the road for two to three seconds, possibly to change the radio station, and struck the island.

As well as being jailed, he was also banned from getting behind the wheel for two-and-a-half years.

Appealing the prison sentence handed down, defence barrister Frank O’Donoghue insisted there had been no excessive speed or sustained bad driving.

“Something happened that his attention was distracted away from the road,” counsel said.

“Whether he was drowsy or fiddling with the radio, whatever he was doing it’s clear that he just failed to see (the roundabout).”

Based on Looney’s age, guilty plea and lack of any similar offences, the court agreed that the starting point in the sentencing process had been too high.

Reducing the term to 12 months, Mrs Justice Keegan emphasised that the impact on the victims must not be underestimated.

“There were very bad injuries affecting two young women, physically and mentally,” she said.

“This was clearly not a case where anything other than a custodial sentence would be merited, and there is an element of deterrence in these types of sentence given the reckless and impulsive behaviour from a young driver which caused such consequences.”