Sunday 4 December 2016

Coroner's remark on road death offended family

Tim Healy

Published 21/01/2012 | 05:00

A CORONER'S "deeply offensive" comments about drink and road accidents at an inquest into the death of an 18-year-old girl prompted a High Court action by her parents.

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The case was settled yesterday after a statement was read in court stating the coroner's comments did not form part of the verdict into the teen's death or have any legal effect.

Malachy and Marie Hegarty brought the action against Co Donegal coroner, John Cannon, arising out of comments he made which, it was claimed, linked their daughter Laura's death to her consumption of alcohol. It followed the jury's verdict at the inquest on April 21, 2009, of death from head and chest injuries associated with a road traffic accident.

It was claimed Mr Cannon expressed his concern at Laura's blood-alcohol reading and he also said this was another death attributable to alcohol and a road traffic accident.

The Hegartys, of College Farm Road, Letterkenny, were deeply upset and angered by the coroner's rider as they claimed it attributed civil liability to, and blamed Laura for, the accident.

While it was accepted that Laura had consumed alcohol on the night, they argued her death had nothing to do with the consumption of alcohol. The family's solicitor asked Mr Cannon to withdraw his remarks, which it was claimed he failed to do. As a result, they initiated High Court proceedings.

Mr Cannon, in a statement of opposition, said his comments were of a general nature, had no legal status, and did not form part of the jury's verdict. He denied his comments attributed any civil liability or censure of Laura in connection with her death.

He also expressed his sincere sympathy to the family and his regret for any offence caused.

When the matter came before the president of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, he was told the Hegartys' action had been resolved.

As part of the settlement, a declaration was read in court stating that Mr Cannon's remarks at the conclusion of the inquest "do not form part of the verdict or the rider, nor do they have any legal effect".

Laura died after being struck by a car at New Line Road, Letterkenny, as she walked home on March 18, 2007, after celebrating St Patrick's Day. A local man was subsequently jailed for five months after admitting being the driver of the car that struck her.

Irish Independent

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