Thursday 21 November 2019

Accused in dangerous driving causing death case 'has no peripheral vision', court hears

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Aoife Nic Ardghail

A prosecution barrister has submitted to the jury in a dangerous driving causing death trial that the accused could not have been aware of his road surroundings because he has no peripheral vision.

In her closing address, Fionnuala O'Sullivan BL, prosecuting, submitted that David Byrne (42) would not have hit the deceased Patricia Dunne (70) if he had braked within normal reaction time.

Referring to Mr Byrne's Usher Syndrome Type II, a degenerative eye condition that affects peripheral vision, she said a fully sighted driver would have seen Mrs Dunne as she crossed the road.

She said Mr Byrne made the decision to get into the car with this condition, though he was “strongly advised” against doing so by doctors, and this meant his driving was dangerous.

Mr Byrne, a postman of Sunnyhill, Castlemartin Lodge, Kilcullen, Co Kildare, denies dangerous driving causing the death of Mrs Dunne at Collins Avenue East, Killester in Dublin on October 16, 2015.

He has also pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dishonestly inducing the National Driving Licence Service (NDLS) to issue him with a driving licence on September 30, 2014. He has further denied making a false or misleading statement while taking out insurance on September 16, 2015.

Ms O'Sullivan submitted that the accused obtained his driving license by deception by answering “no” to a question about having a medical difficulty or impairment. She suggested that he committed fraud by failing to tell his insurance company that he had an eye condition.

Counsel highlighted previous evidence of a 65m clear line of sight for vehicles on Collins Avenue on the day and that Mrs Dunne had been wearing light coloured clothing and pulling a trolley. She further submitted that Mrs Dunne had been on the road for 10.2 seconds before impact and that she had crossed the broken white line on the road two seconds before impact.

Defence barrister Michel O'Higgins SC, defending, invited the jury in his closing speech to consider a lesser charge of careless driving causing death when deciding the case.

He described the matter as “a case of split second decision making” and suggested that Mrs Dunne had been negotiating two laneways in a busy artery. He suggested that Mrs Dunne made the decision to cross into the laneway where “there was the narrowest of margins to clear the car”.

He further submitted that the prosecution had “utterly failed” to put in context the effect of Usher Syndrome on a driver. He highlighted that his client had been driving for 20 years without something like this happening.

Mr O'Higgins pointed out that there was no comparison between eye exams done on his client between 1997 and 2012, so no way of determining if there was a degeneration in that time.

Referring to new evidence that Mr Byrne's car had had anti-lock breaking system (ABS), Mr O'Higgins said it was highly probably no skid marks would be on the road after emergency braking.

He had earlier cross-examined a garda expert on ABS and opened two surveys to the court that suggested it would be unlikely to see marks after skid testing cars with such a system.

Garda Patrick McIlroy, a collision expert, told the jury last week that he found no evidence of skid marks at the scene.

The jury will begin deliberating tomorrow morning.

The trial continues before Judge Patricia Ryan.

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