Donegal crash families 'distressed by court delays'

Shaun Kelly who is accused of causing the deaths of eight people in a car crash at Meenaduff

Families of victims of one of the country’s worst ever car crashes are being hugely distressed by delays in a court case, a judge has warned.

The case against Shaun Kelly, 24, from Hill Road, Ballymagan, Buncrana, Co Donegal – accused of causing the deaths of eight people by dangerous driving - has been put back again because of fresh psychiatric evidence.

The trial was due to begin next week after several delays, but lawyers for both the state and the defendant asked for a further adjournment after a new report into the accused’s health was handed to prosecutors last night.

Defence barrister Peter Nolan said a psychiatric report and engineering evidence – first requested in May 2012 – were already handed to the prosecution team but there was a developing issue.

The defendant has been under constant medical attention since the crash outside Buncrana in 2010, but things were changing, he told Judge Keenan Johnson at Letterkenny Circuit Court.

“It’s not a static situation,” he said.

Mr Nolan said if the case went ahead next week the judge would be forced to make a decision on whether Mr Kelly was fit to stand trial.

The latest psychiatric report was the definitive and final one, and doctors were available to give evidence to the court on the defendant’s fitness to stand trial, he told the court.

Prosecution barrister Patricia McLaughlin said the state was not in a position to proceed with the case until it was allowed to carry out its own independent medical examinations.

Judge Johnson warned the case has already been outstanding for a considerable length of time, despite having been given priority by the court.

“Other parties are emotionally involved and this is a source of huge distress to them,” he said.

He agreed to adjourn the case until April 1, when it will deal with the defendant’s fitness to plea.

Mr Kelly is accused of causing the deaths of eight people in a car crash at Meenaduff, between Buncrana and Clonmany, Co Donegal, on July 11, 2010.

The case was previously scheduled to go ahead last autumn and was expected to last up to four days.

Those who died in the crash were Hugh Friel, 66, of Urris, Clonmany; Eamon McDaid, 22, of Ballymagan, Buncrana; Mark McLaughlin, 21, of Ballinahone, Fahan; Paul Doherty, 19, of Ardagh, Ballyliffin; Ciaran Sweeney, 19, of Ballyliffin; PJ McLaughlin, 21, of Rockstown, Burnfoot; James McEleney, 23, of Meenaduff, Clonmany; and Damien McLaughlin, 21, of Umricam, Buncrana.

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