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BBC NI's Karen Atkinson
The judge urgedParliament to increase the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving
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Wednesday, 28 June, 2000, 22:57 GMT 23:57 UK
Joyrider jailed for crash deaths
Scene of collisison between stolen car and the Watson's vehicle
Three people were killed in the fatal crash
A man convicted of causing three deaths by dangerous driving has been jailed for eight years.

Antrim Crown Court heard that last July, 24-year-old Desmond Savage from Altan Avenue in the Woodburn area of west Belfast, was driving a stolen car at speeds of over 100 miles an hour.

The court, which was sitting in Ballymena, was told Savage had collided with three cars on the Ballybogey Road outside Ballymoney before ploughing head-on into the Vauxhall Corsa being driven by Shankill Road couple Justin and Charmaine Watson.

27-year-old Charmaine was killed instantly as was Savage's 20-year-old friend Brian Donnelly, a front seat passenger in their stolen Vauxhall Cavalier.

Twenty-four-year-old Justin Watson died later in hospital. Also injured was his three-year-old son Tyler.

Judge David Smyth urged Parliament to increase the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving from 10 to at least 14years.

The dead couple's son Tyler Watson
The dead couple's son Tyler Watson
Two other friends of the convicted man were also injured in the crash.

Both 21-year-old Jonathan Wylie of Killeaton Gardens in Dunmurry and Stephen Light, 20, from Glenbawn Crescent in Poleglass received nine-month sentences for allowing themselves to be carried in a stolen car.

Prosecuting lawyer Gordon Kerr QC, described the tragedy as "probably one of the worst cases of its kind".

He said Savage was being shadowed by police following an earlier high speed chase during which he was recorded to be driving at over 100 miles per hour.

Police had kept their distance as they watched Savage first clip three other cars before colliding head-on with Mr Watson's car.

'Uproar' in court

Jailing Savage, the judge said while the defendant had initially shown no remorse in the immediate aftermath, he accepted he was genuinely suffering from guilt and remorse now.

The judge told Savage he had "driven deliberately recklessly without regard of the consequences and the safety of others".

He added he was obliged to give credit for his guilty plea but the lowest sentence he could impose to "meet the legitimate expectations of the public" was one of eight years.

Brother of crash victim
Jason Watson: Thought eight years was "a joke"
But the sentence caused uproar among relatives of the Watsons who claimed Savage would have been given a longer sentence if it had been the judge's son who'd been killed.

"Basically I thought eight years was a joke - eight years doesn't make up for the loss of two lives, three if you count Brian Donnelly," said Jason Watson, the brother of Justin Watson.

Outside the court, the mother of Brian Donnelly said Savage should have been given the maximum sentence.

She also said that the judge should have have ordered that the convicted man be given psychiatric help and placed in care on his release.

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27 Jul 99 | Northern Ireland
Heartbreak of joyrider's mother after crash
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