Thursday 27 October 2016

Elderly man (70) whose car collided with roadworks killing worker wins conviction appeal

Ruaidhrí Giblin

Published 15/12/2015 | 17:37

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An elderly man, whose car collided with roadworks causing the death of a worker, has won an appeal against conviction and now faces a possible retrial for careless driving.

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Michael O'Shea (70), of Smithstown, Maynooth, had pleaded not guilty at Naas Circuit Criminal Court to careless driving causing the death of Mr Kevin O'Sullivan at Graiguesallagh, Ladychapel on January 13, 2013.

O'Shea was disqualified from driving for four years, fined €5,000 and directed to resit a driver competency test by Judge Gerard Griffin on December 18, 2014.

O'Shea successfully appealed his conviction today and the Court of Appeal directed a retrial.

His barrister, Damien Colgan SC, submitted that the trial judge misdirected the jury in classifying the offence as one of strict liability.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said O'Shea had left his home on the date in question to attend a funeral and later in the day as he approached road works he collided with a JCB causing the death of Mr O'Sullivan.

Mr Justice Mahon said O'Shea had maintained that he was blinded by sunlight and there were no warning signs.

He had not been driving at a high speed, tested negative for alcohol and his car was roadworthy, Mr Justice Mahon said. Other drivers confirmed that the sun was in a low position.

O'Shea later attended a garda station and gave a full and complete account of what had occured, the judge said.

The court heard that the offence of careless driving causing death was a relatively new one.

In order to convict, Mr Justice Mahon said a jury would have to be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that there had been intention or reckless behaviour in the manner of his driving.

However, the issue of recklessness was not adrressed by the judge in his charge to the jury, Mr Justice Mahon said.

He said classification of the offence as one of strict liability had the potential to confuse the jury at a minimum.

Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court would allow the appeal and the three-judge court directed a retrial.

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