Whiteabbey woman facing prison term

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A Whiteabbey woman convicted of killing a 26-year-old student from Rathfern in a car crash in October 2010 is due to be sentenced next month.

On Friday (May 17) at Belfast Crown Court, Mary McLaughlin, from Dillons Avenue, was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving and four counts of causing grievous bodily injury by dangerous driving.

The week-long trial heard how the 47-year-old, who has suffered from repeated blackouts since 2004, suffered a blackout at the wheel of her Vauxhall Zafira car as she travelled along the M5 motorway towards the Hazelbank roundabout. Her vehicle left the motorway and careered into a Ford Focus car carrying five students from the Northern Regional College. Mother-of-two Rebecca McManus died at the scene, while her four classmates all suffered serious injuries.

McLaughlin, who was issued with a new driving licence just months before the fatal crash, told the jury that she would never have driven if she hadn’t thought it was safe to do so, claiming that she had come to recognise the warning signs of an oncoming blackout.

However, the jury of four men and eight women unanimously agreed with the prosecution lawyer that it was dangerous for McLaughlin to be driving because of her illness and that she carried on doing so regardless of the danger.

Warning the married mother-of-three that she faces an inevitable prison sentence, judge Gordon Kerr QC released her on bail and adjourned the case for seven weeks.

She is due to be sentenced at Laganside Courts on June 28 following the presentation of pre-sentence reports.