Garda convicted of careless driving causing death of woman (75) ordered to pay €5,000 to charity
A garda whose careless driving caused the death of a 75-year-old pedestrian has had a nine month prison sentence deferred on condition he pay €5,000 to a charity.
Warren Farrell (33), a garda serving in Ballyfermot, Co Dublin, was driving a marked patrol car in response to an incident at a Topaz garage when his vehicle struck Elizabeth Core.
Gda Farrell had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of Mrs Core at Fonthill Road South, Dublin, on August 28, 2014.
After a trial last December a jury convicted Gda Farrell by majority verdict on an alternative charge of careless driving causing death. Judge Cormac Quinn had advised the jurors they could convict on this alternative charge.
Yesterday morning Judge Quinn said the degree of Farrell's culpability was in the lower range. He said the aggravating factor was his speed.
The trial heard that after seeing Mrs Core crossing from the far side of the road Gda Farrell failed to slow the car. He later told investigators that he believed Mrs Core would see or hear the patrol car and stop crossing and return to her side of the road.
He said he was surprised that she continued to cross the road and immediately applied brakes and entered the bus lane to avoid hitting her.
Gda Farrell said he attempted to mount the car onto the footpath on his left but was unable to do so and the left tyre burst. The front right of the car hit Mrs Core and she was pushed onto the front windscreen.
Forensic investigators put the car's speed at the point of impact, following heavy braking, at between 50 to 56 kmh. The speed limit on the road was 50 kmh.
Judge Quinn said there is a tension between the duty imposed on gardaí to respond to calls as quickly as possible and the duty not to endanger the public.
He said there was evidence Gda Farrell experienced a “violation of expectancy” where he had expected Mrs Core to stop crossing.
When he saw she continued to cross he reassessed the situation and applied the brakes. Judge Quinn noted that as a result of this up to 2.5 seconds in stopping time were lost.
At a hearing last month Thomas Core, Mrs Core's son, described his mother as “a singer and a dancer” and “the life and soul of family gatherings”.
Reading from his victim impact statement, he said his mother had been fit and healthy for her age and had many more years of her life left. He said his father's health deteriorated after his mother's death and he passed away “almost two years to the day she died”.
Judge Quinn extended the court's sympathy to the Core family. He said that while the consequences of the “bad driving” must be taken into consideration they were not the determinative factor.
He ordered that Gda Farrell pay a fine of €2,000 as well as pay €5,000 over to the Irish Road Victims Association in the next four months. He set a proposed prison sentence of nine months which he deferred under section 100 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 where a court can defer sentence under conditions.
At last month's hearing Detective Superintendent Colm O'Malley offered “sincere condolences” to the Core family for their tragic loss on behalf of Gda Farrell and An Garda Síochána.
He agreed with defence counsel Patrick McGrath SC that Gda Farrell had always wished to extend his condolences personally, but that it would not have been appropriate while the court case was ongoing.
James Butler, an investigator with the Garda Síochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), told the court that Gda Farrell told GSOC investigators that he had been satisfied before collision that his car's blue flashing lights and sirens would have alerted Mrs Core and she would have remained on her side of the road.
Mr Butler told James Dwyer SC, prosecuting, that Gda Farrell said he continued driving at the same speed as a result. Some civilian witnesses during the trial testified that the siren or blue lights were not on when they saw the car before the collision.
Mr Butler said the Director of Public Prosecutions had rejected an offer of a guilty plea on careless driving causing death and the matter went to trial.
He agreed with Mr McGrath that Gda Farrell had taken evasive action before the collision, but his vehicle's tyre burst and he was unable to mount a footpath to avoid impact.