Father of killed children “sickened” by driver’s light sentence

Driver given a 10,000 kroner fine for accident that claimed the lives of three children visiting from Australia

The Danish-Irish couple who lost three children in a July car crash near Sindal were left shocked by the verdict handed down in a Hjørring courtroom yesterday. 

Lasse Burholt, the 39-year-old motorist who has admitted that he was driving well over the speed limit at the time of the fatal crash, was given a 10,000 kroner fine and a three-year probation on his driving licence. 

Maria O'Shea, who was driving with her four children near the northern Jutland town of Sindal when the crash occurred, said in a statement that she was gravely disappointed by the sentence.

"It's hard to say anything positive or adequate [about the Danish legal system]," she said following the verdict, according to the Irish Independent. 

Her husband, Brian O'Shea, took his anger further, saying that the penalty "sickened" him. 

"He has been given a 10,000 kroner fine for causing the deaths of our children," O'Shea told the Independent. "It's absolutely outrageous and doesn't begin to correspond with his actions." 

READ MORE: Those involved in fatal July car crash want answers

Driver who admits speeding received an SMS message one minute before the crash
The July crash occurred when Maria O'Shea took a left turn and was hit by Burholt's vehicle. Three of O'Shea's four children – Soren (11), Saoirse (9) and Conor (3) – were killed. O'Shea and her youngest child, the now eight-month-old Torben, survived. The O'Sheas live in Australia and were visiting Maria's family in the area. Although Maria is Danish has lived in Australia for the past ten years. Brian O'Shea is an Irish citizen. 

Burholt has admitted that he was speeding at the time of the collision and told the Independent last month that he has been open about that since the beginning. 

"I testified to the police at the hospital that I was speeding," Burholt told the Independent. "Witnesses at the crash site also told the police that I had told them about speeding."

At the trial, it emerged that Burholt's speed was around 125 km/h, well in excess of the 80 km/h limit. The prosecutor also produced evidence that Burholt sent and received text messages and spoke on the phone around the time of the accident. 

Burholt received an SMS at 9:49am, just one minute before the accident occurred. According to a report from BT tabloid, Burholt told the court that he didn't look at the message until later in the day.  

"Fuck, it was a car with children that I hit"
In an interview with ET CETERA Magazine, Burholt recalled the aftermath of the accident.

"When I got out of the car, everything was completely quiet," he told ET CETERA. "We're on a long, straight country road and I can see that there is something that is completely smashed together. But it was just completely, completely quiet. And then I head a scream. It was the mother who screamed, and I thought: 'Fuck, it was a car with children that I hit.'"

Following yesterday's verdict, Maria O'Shea read a statement outside the courtroom. 

"We've lost three children," she said, according to the Irish Independent. "Soren, Saoirse and Connor were violently taken from us that day in July. They were 11, nine and three years old, and a world of opportunities and dreams were turned off for all eternity."

READ MORE: Car crash victims mourned in three countries

Politicians trust court's judgement
Although the O'Sheas were disappointed with Burholt's sentence, leading politicians for both government coalition party Socialdemokraterne and leading opposition party Venstre expressed their support for the court's decision.

"You have to take into account that the person involved in, and charged with causing, the accident did not have intentions to hurt or kill anyone," Venstre's legal spokesperson Karsten Lauritzen told Berlingske Nyhedsbureau. "In traffic cases, there is often guilt on both parties, such as in this case in which the defendant and the driver of the car played a part in the accident. It's difficult to identify who has the full responsibility." 

Trine Bramsen, the legal spokesperson for Socialdemokraterne, said she recognised that the O'Shea family "are left with the feeling that the punishment does not correspond to the lost lives of their precious children".

"But with that being said, our legal system is built on principles. It is the court that decides on the basis of law what the punishment should be," Bramsen told Berlingske Nyhedsbureau. "It's not easy, but I have confidence that the court considered the case properly."

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