Friday 28 July 2017

Gardaí in pursuit on night tragic Diana died in crash were not properly trained

Diana Harton (43) died in the crash in October 2014
Diana Harton (43) died in the crash in October 2014
Emma Jane Hade

Emma Jane Hade

A senior garda has admitted members of the force involved in a pursuit which left an innocent woman dead were not trained to deal with the situation.

Diana Harton (43) was killed when a car being chased by gardaí crashed in to her on the M7 on October 23 last year.

A senior ranking garda admitted at her inquest in Naas, Co Kildare, that officers on duty on the night were not adequately trained to deal with the situation that unfolded.

A jury in the Coroner's Court yesterday recommended a review should be held into how gardaí chase cars in the wake of her tragic death. After the hearing, Ms Harton's heartbroken family said it would be some consolation to them if no one else had to go through what they had experienced.

Ms Harton died almost instantly after her car was struck by a Volkswagen Polo which was carrying five men who were being pursued by gardaí.

State pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy told coroner Dr Denis Cusack that Ms Harton died rapidly from her severe injuries.

Several members of the gardaí gave evidence yesterday, including two who admitted that at the time they were not aware of the Garda code section 35.41, which deals with the use of Garda vehicles in pursuit.

Gda Daniel Murphy - a passenger in a squad car from Kildare station which attended the scene of the accident at junction 13 on the M7 - said he and a colleague attempted to slow down traffic but did not block off the ramp which Ms Harton travelled down in her Citroen.

He said he stood by his actions that night.

The car he was in was hit by the Volkswagen after it collided with Ms Harton's car.

He also said that he had "no training in vehicle pursuit" and was not aware of the Garda code 35.41.

Superintendent Martin Walker said some of the gardaí "presented here on this occasion and previously" did not have "the necessary training".

Driver John Joyce later pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing Ms Harton's death in the Circuit Criminal Court in March of this year, and the jury at the inquest returned a verdict in accordance with that finding.

Last week, he told the inquest he was drinking in the vehicle and had earlier taken drugs.

Mr Joyce said he had also taken prescription drugs and cannabis. He took full responsibility for his actions and said he was sorry for what he had done.

The coroner heard evidence Mr Joyce was driving at speeds of up to 160kph during the pursuit as well as swerving at times to try to ram garda cars.

The jury recommended that the Garda pursuit code should be reviewed and updated "in advent of modern structure and technologies and that there be training of all Garda personnel in the code".

They also recommended that the Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald review the 1976 Criminal Law Act in view of their findings.

Ms Harton's family hope the recommendations "will result in an improvement in the Garda systems" which they hope will lead to a "complete overhaul in the manner in which such pursuits are co-ordinated and directed".

"Diana is gone, but we sincerely hope that no other family has to go through what we have experienced. If her death can prevent just one other person dying in the same way, it will be of some consolation to us," they added.

Irish Independent

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