03 April 2006

Dad’s anger at sentence


Campaign group to protest 5-year term in letter to Attorney General

by Aine McEntee

The heartbroken father of little Emma Lynch, killed over two years ago in a horrific car smash, has vowed to fight the sentence handed down to the man responsible.

Grief-stricken Joe Caughey has told the Andersonstown News that he is going to appeal the five-year sentence handed down to 44-year-old Wayne Johnston for the deaths of his eight-year-old daughter and 11-year-old Christopher Shaw. With good behaviour, Johnston will be out in two and a half years.

Campaign group Families Bereaved Through Car Crime (FBTCC) and local Sinn Féin MLA Michael Ferguson have both thrown their weight behind Joe's campaign for justice for Emma and Christopher.

“I want to appeal for help on this – this decision handed down to Wayne Johnston is just wrong. In the name of God, everybody knows it's wrong and somebody has just got to do something about this.

“The decision must be reversed and a heavier sentence given.

“Five years is nothing, two and a half is even less.

“On the one hand the judge says he feels sympathy for us, then on the other, he slaps us in the face with the other. Emma and Christopher deserve a lot more."

At the end of his trial last month, Wayne Johnston, formerly from the Highfield estate in North Belfast, was unanimously convicted on two counts of killing Christopher Shaw and Emma Lynch and also of causing grievous bodily harm to Christopher's brother Darren by dangerous driving.

Last Friday he was given a five year sentence and a 10-year driving ban.
Still consumed by raw grief, Joe spoke of his daily heartbreak over the loss of his “wee angel”.

“I'm heartbroken without her, all of us are.

“I'm trying so hard to understand why this has happened.

“This sentence has knocked me for six. It’s impossible to go on sometimes. It’s a kick in the teeth. She was the light of my life. I feel so alone without her. She was all I had."

Peggy Hanna of FBTCC said she was devastated for the Lynch and Shaw families.

Peggy lost her son, Patrick Hanna, in January 1999 when Gerard Gaskin knocked him down on the Andersonstown Road.

Gaskin received four years for his crime which was later reduced on appeal to three.

“My heart goes out to them," Peggy Hanna said.

“I sat in that same position seven years ago waiting for justice to be delivered and it wasn't.

“Families Bereaved Through Car Crime have campaigned to get the laws changed on death drivers and we've won that battle.

“But it seems like it hasn't made a difference. We're no better off - after all the campaigning and all the fighting to get heavier sentences imposed of up to 14 years, what’s changed?

“What’s been achieved is completely useless if the judges don't choose to use them."

Sinn Féin's Michael Ferguson said he would meet with families to offer his support.

“I would be more than happy to meet with the families concerned. I can completely understand that the judgement given has come as a severe shock," the MLA said.

“It's clear the families do not feel that justice has been done and they're keen to look at what options are before them.

“It’s the families’ choice, but if they need my help, I am happy to do whatever is in my power to support the families’ efforts to get justice."

Peggy's daughter, Margaret Muir, also of FBTCC, said the group was “gutted”.
She added that the group would be writing to the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to ask him to reconsider the sentence.

“We will do all we can to help.

“In the meantime we are going to write independently to the Attorney General and complain about this verdict.

“It’s just a crying shame. A five-year sentence for killing two children adds insult to injury.”

Journalist:: Áine McEntee

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