​Co. Armagh man who left the scene of a fatal hit and run accident walks free from court

Victim Michael KirkVictim Michael Kirk
Victim Michael Kirk
​A Co Armagh man who left the scene of a fatal hit-and-run accident walked free from court on Tuesday after his two-year jail sentence was suspended for three years.

Sentencing Ciaran Feeney at Newry Crown Court, sitting in Craigavon, Judge Paul Ramsey KC told the 38-year-old that while he was not criminally responsible for the death of Michael Kirk, his behaviour after he struck him on a dark country road was “shameful and dishonourable”.

“The family must be bemused and simply cannot get their heads around the agreed position between the parties that he bears no responsibility for the tragic death,” said the judge.

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“It’s his behaviour after the incident rather than his behaviour leading up to the incident which is central to this case.

“It is clear that his behaviour at the scene leaves a great deal to be desired and at best can be described as shameful and dishonourable.”

Judge Ramsey also called the case “unique and distressing”.

He told the court while there was no doubt that Feeney’s offence warranted a prison sentence, the question of whether the sentence would be immediate or suspended “has troubled me greatly but I keep coming back to the basis of the plea”.

That basis of plea, said the judge, made clear that while Feeney’s car struck Mr Kirk “as he lay prone on the ground” and caused his death, “it is clear his driving was not at fault and due to the circumstances of the road, the lighting and the position of the deceased lying across the road, he may not have seen him in time to avoid a collision and therefore he is not criminally responsible for causing the death by careless or dangerous driving”.

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Last March Feeney, from the Dundalk Road in Crossmaglen, entered guilty pleas to two counts of perverting the course of justice, failing to remain after an accident and failing to report his name and address to police.

The perverting justice charges outline that Feeney “having been involved in a collision in which death was caused to Michael Kirk subsequently left the scene and hid the said vehicle at Foxfield Road, Crossmaglen” on August 23 2020 and then three days later, he “advised police that you had lost your phone whereas and in fact the phone had not been lost”.

Following his admissions the prosecution opted to “leave on the books” a further charge of dangerous driving.

During his sentencing remarks Judge Ramsey outlined how Mr Kirk had been out socialising at a family event when the police received a call to attend the Blaney Road.

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When paramedics arrived Feeney’s father Martin was performing CPR on Mr Kirk but tragically, life was pronounced extinct at the scene.

Judge Ramsey said while there were “distressing details” about the cause of death on his legal papers “I will simply say that there was a significant head injury sustained that proved fatal”.

Also contained in the papers was a comprehensive, 25-page report from an expert forensic scientist and engineer who examined the scene and Feeney’s car and said there was “nothing to indicate that the deceased had been impacted in the upright position”.

The report also found that with Mr Kirk “lying prostrate” in the roadway, if Feeney’s car had been further to the left there would not have been a collision but equally, “it would have been difficult for the driver to go much further left without striking the verge”.

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Judge Ramsey revealed there had even been reconstructions with a mannequin taking the place of Mr Kirk and the expert report concluded that “there may have been time for the driver to detect the presence of the pedestrian but not enough time to avoid a collision”.

The judge explained that the dangerous driving charge which was not proceeded with did not relate to Feeney’s manner of driving before the incident but rather that afterwards, he left the scene and drove with his front off-side tyre being “completely shredded”.

During police interviews Feeney accepted he had struck Mr Kirk and that afterwards, he had stopped and performed CPR until his own father arrived at the scene and then he left, driving on for several miles until he ditched his car in a field.

Feeney also accepted he had disposed of his car keys and mobile phone.

In addition to the suspended sentence Feeney was also given a 12-month driving ban.