Farm Ireland
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Monday 20 November 2017

Tractor lights play key role as dangerous driving case is struck out

RSA says work lamps are highly powered causing other road users to be temporarily blinded which is a serious road safety concern.
RSA says work lamps are highly powered causing other road users to be temporarily blinded which is a serious road safety concern.

Court Reporter

A case of dangerous driving against Felix McGrath, 18 Creamery Rd, Manorhamilton was struck out by Judge Kevin P Kilrane at a recent sitting of Manorhamilton District Court.

The Court heard a van driven by Mr McGrath collided with the rear of a tractor driven by Patrick Maguire at Brockagh, Lower Glenfarne on March 19, 2016.

Giving evidence, Mr Maguire said he was turning right onto the main Manorhamilton-Enniskillen road between 8.30 and 9pm. He recalled it was a dark evening adding, to the best of his recollection, it was dry.

While waiting at the junction to turn right Mr Maguire recalled, “You could see 100-200 yards in either direction from the junction.”

Continuing his evidence Mr Maguire said he had travelled 50 or 60 yards when, “There was a big bang. The tractor tumbled over on its side and I got out of the back window.” Mr Maguire added that he had “A notorious pain in my head.”

Upon getting out of the tractor Mr Maguire observed a light in the distance stating, “I could see a dim light up the road. I presumed that was the vehicle that hit me. It was a white van, a Transit I think it was.” When asked if he came across the van driver at the scene Mr Maguire answered, “No. There was strangers there, it was very dark.”

Gda Sean Gillen gave evidence saying upon arrival at the scene he observed a Transit van on the incorrect side of the road. There was no sign of the driver (Mr McGrath). “I spoke to Patrick Maguire but there was no sign of the driver of the Transit.” Gda Gillen added that he took measurements and made arrangements for the vehicles to be removed.

A memo of an interview carried out by Gda Gillen with Mr McGrath was read in Court in which the defendant acknowledged that he was driving on the date in question. He agreed to produce his driving licence and insurance and when asked if he wished to make a statement in relation to the incident he said, “Not yet. I want to speak to my solicitor first.”

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Under cross-examination from defending solicitor John McNulty, Gda Gillen was asked at what point Mr McGrath expressed his wish to speak to a solicitor to which Gda Gillen replied, “I’m not sure. I cautioned him and told him it was in relation to the accident on the night.”

Gda Gillen was also asked about the condition of the tractor and stated, “The PSV report said the lights on the tractor seemed to be in working order.”

Judge Kilrane asked if the tractor lights were clean, to which Gda Gillen replied, “They seemed to be. Nothing electrical was working when we came upon it.”

Having heard the evidence Judge Kilrane said, “There are a number of unsatisfactory matters.” He continued,  “It is alleged he didn’t keep the vehicle at or near the scene of the accident. It was 179ft from the accident and couldn’t be moved.”

Judge Kilrane added, “The complainant was driving on to the main road on a dark winter’s night according to the injured party. The van came from behind, out of nowhere and crashed into the rear of the tractor causing the tractor to be overturned. The allegation is that it was the defendant who caused that.

“I’ve heard the memo of interview. It is unfortunate it is not signed and dated. I’ll allow it with some degree of trepidation.”

Judge Kilrane highlighted the lack of evidence in relation to the lighting of the tractor saying, “There is not a word about what the lighting situation is at the back of tractor except for the hearsay evidence from the PSV inspector who is not here.

“I couldn’t jump to the conclusion the tractor was properly lit up. I could guess that the lights were out. If the lights were out or obliterated that would be the end of the case.

“I am not alleging he did not have adequate lighting but it is up to the prosecution to prove the charge of dangerous driving.”

The charge of dangerous driving was dismissed while Mr McGrath was given the benefit of the Probation Act in relation to a charge of having no road tax as Judge Kilrane was satisfied the vehicle had only been purchased shortly before the accident.

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