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Father outraged as death crash driver walks free from court

Adele Whiteside, 14, who died when she was hit by a car as she walked home from a wedding party on in September 2007.THE FAMILY of 14 -year-old Dunmurry HS pupil Adele Whiteside, who was knocked down and killed as she made her way home after a wedding, have called for a change in the law after the Blacks Road man who admitted causing her death walked free from court on Monday.

Michael Thomas McDonnell (20) of Garnock was given an 18 month-term suspended for three years by Judge Geoffrey Miller QC.

As McDonnell was led from the dock, friends and family of Adele in the public gallery shouted 'absolute disgrace' and 'scum bag.'

Adele was returning from a wedding on September 15, 2007 with three friends when she was struck by a Citroen Xantia driven by McDonnell as she crossed Finaghy Road South near Orpen Park with three friends.

On the morning of his trial in October McDonnell pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.

Outside Belfast Crown Court on Monday following the sentencing, Adele's mother Shirley, father Allan and sister Alannah described the sentence as a 'disgrace.'

Shirley said the entire family were heartbroken.

"We are not the only family going through it all," she said. "Something has to change in the justice system so killer drivers are put away. I would have put him away and thrown away the key. Nobody is getting justice anywhere."

Allan said the whole family were appalled and disgusted at the sentence.

"How can you take a life and have a sentence suspended?" he asked. "We were hoping (there) would have been some sort of closure, now it's never going to close.

"I wouldn't have agreed to accepting the guilty plea if I had known he was only going to get 18 months." Adele's sister broke down as she spoke outside court.

"I'm an only child again," said Alannah. "I don't have a sister, my two babies don't have an auntie. "I'm never going to have a niece or a nephew because he took her away from me."

McDonnell, who had no trace of drink or drugs in his system, at the time of the crash admitted to driving too fast.

In the sentencing remarks, the court heard Adele was thrown into the air as she was hit by the car, and was knocked 52.5m (170ft).

Forensic examination of the scene found that after the initial impact with McDonnell's car, Adele struck another, parked, car, decreasing the distance she travelled. From her final resting place, a forensic scientist concluded that McDonnell was driving at an "absolute minimum of 47mph".

However, he also said that in his opinion, if Adele had not struck the parked car she would have been thrown further.

Judge Miller said that there was no identifiable answer from eye witnesses as to why the accident took place.

McDonnell admitted to driving too fast and that he failed to keep a proper lookout.

The court heard the road was clear and well lit, and McDonnell was sober and there was no evidence that he had taken drugs.

"This lack of explanation must only serve to underscore the sense of grief and of a life needlessly lost that so clearly preoccupies and distresses (her) family,' said Judge Miller.

He said the defendant's guilty plea deserved credit and concluded not without some considerable hesitation" that this was a case where the circumstances justified a suspended sentence.

Ulster Star