Tuesday 16 January 2018

Decision that family of RTA victim should pay witness expenses is challenged in High Court

Aodhan O'Faolain & Ray Managh

THE Co Sligo Coroner's decision that the family of a road traffic fatality must pay the expenses of two UK-based witnesses called to the deceased's inquest has been challenged in the High Court.

Father of two Kevin Gareth Kyle (28)  died after he was struck by a lorry while walking in the early hours of the morning on October 11th 2010. The tragedy occurred on the main N17 road close to Tubberbride Roundabout at Collooney, Co Sligo.


Today Mr Justice Michael White heard that Coroner Desmond Moran decided in June last that the expenses of two UK-based witnesses must be discharged by the late Mr Kyle's family.


The inquest currently stands adjourned.


The family claim the witnesses, Stephanie Timmons and her boyfriend, Brian Byers, may have vital and essential evidence to give about the tragedy as they were the first people on the scene.   The couple live in the Isle of Man.


The deceased man's family say the coroner's ruling is unfair as they are not “people of means.”


Kevin’s mother, Kathleen Kyle, wants the High Court to make a number of orders including one prohibiting the inquest from taking place in the absence of the two witnesses.


Mrs Kyle also seeks an order directing the coroner to pay the witnesses expenses.


Eanna Mulloy SC for Mrs Kyle, who lives in Lisalooley, Drumkeerin Co Leitrim, said the coroner's decision was “bad practise and somewhat wounding and offensive to the Kyle family."


He said that normally the expenses of witnesses at inquests are covered by the relevant local authority.


Mr Mulloy said the inquest into Kevin's death had opened in Sligo Courthouse last October. It had been adjourned by Coroner Moran after Mrs Kyle's lawyers expressed concerns about the couple's absence, and the attempts that were being made to have them attend the court.


The Kyle family claim the witnesses have important information and have argued that the inquest should not proceed unless Ms Timmons and Mr Byers are called to give evidence.


“On the date of the fatality Ms Timmons, who was then living in Co Sligo, was driving Mr Byers to Knock Airport and were first on the scene, Mr Mulloy said.


He said the vital witnesses had since been contacted by Mrs Kyle's lawyers and were ready and willing to attend the inquest. However the family became concerned that no effort was being made to secure their attendance.


Mr Mulloy told the court that Coroner Moran, in correspondence with the family's lawyers, had stated last April that the two witnesses do not have any “expert evidence” to give.


Coroner Moran had added it was not necessary for the witnesses, who both gave statements to the Gardai shortly after the accident, to come to the inquest at great expense from the UK.


Mr Mulloy said the family had expressed their opposition to this position and had repeated their view that the witnesses should give evidence at the inquest.


“Last June Coroner Moran agreed to the couple being witnesses at the inquest, once their expenses were discharged by the Kyle family,” Mr Mulloy said.


Judge White granted Mrs Kyle permission to bring the action for determination by the High Court and made the proceedings returnable to the new law term in October.

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