Friday 23 February 2018

‘Please don’t let Graham’s drink death be in vain'

Barmen Aidan Dalton (left) and Gary Wright at Nenagh Court House Co. Tipperary. Photo: PA

The heartbroken family of British tourist Graham Parish, who died after downing a cocktail of shots at a Thurles hotel, today spoke of their loss and urged people to be aware of the dangers of drink.

Two barmen charged with manslaughter after Mr Parish downed a cocktail of shots were found not guilty on the judge's orders this morning.

Bar manager Gary Wright and barman Aidan Dalton had denied responsibility for the death of Mr Parish in Hayes Hotel, Thurles, Co Tipperary, on June 30 2008.

The British father of two, from Calder Terrace in Lomeshaye village near Nelson, east Lancashire, was celebrating his 26th birthday when he drank a lethal mix of at least eight shots in one glass.

Mr Parish's parents David and Julie and sister Jess were distraught as they left the Nenagh Circuit Court where Judge Thomas Teehan directed the jury to return a not guilty verdict.

The judge said the State had proved Mr Wright and Mr Dalton had a duty of care to Mr Parish, had breached that duty of care and that their negligence was gross.

But he found their negligence was not the cause of the victim's death as Mr Parish took the decision to have the drink.

Their family and friends wept in court as the case was dramatically struck out.

Outside court, the men's solicitor, JJ Fitzgerald, said the pair - who still work at the Hayes Hotel - were "much relieved" and extended their sympathies to the Parish family.

"This has been a stressful time on both men's lives and they are happy this has been brought to a close," he added.

The six-day trial heard that Mr Parish had been drinking heavily in the hotel bar with five British contractors who were working in a meat processing plant in the area.

He consumed about nine pints of lager and Guinness, including downing two pints with shots of vodka in them without his knowledge, before knocking back the cocktail of shots.

It is understood double shots of Baileys, Southern Comfort, Jack Daniels and gin were in the glass.

Both Mr Wright, a barman for 13 years, and Mr Dalton, who had worked in pubs for 10 years, later told investigators they believed the drink would be shared with his friends.

Within minutes of drinking the mix Mr Parish, who was 6ft 3in, slumped off his bar stool and four friends who tried to carry him to bed left him on the floor of a conference room, where he died of acute alcohol poisoning.

His body was found by a night porter shortly after 6am the following day.

Judge Teehan said the courts place a high importance on individual responsibility when it comes to the consumption of alcohol.

He said an accused person in a criminal case could not use alcohol as an excuse or defence, even if they could not remember, and the same applied in this case.

"A decision was taken by Mr Parish, even after Mr Dalton and Mr Wright came to the conclusion that the drink should be served," said Judge Teehan.

"He then took the decision to consume that drink and that was a supervening event to break the chain of causation.

The Parish family issued the following statement after the court case adjourned:

"Firstly we would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the case and we appreciate the support and help we have received since Graham's death.

We wanted this opportunity to present Graham as a wonderful, kind and living person he was.

He was a cheerful, intelligent man with a very bright future ahead of him. As a qualified design engineer he was hard working and successful.

Graham was the most brilliant doting daddy who took fatherhood very seriously. He had never been happier and was truly content.

He had the ability to get along with anyone and always saw the best in people. His many, many friends would testify that Graham could always be relied upon and would be the one to ensure everyone got home safely.

He is remembered by this family and friends as an easy going, cheerful gentleman, Known locally as the 'gentle giant', he lived up to his name.

Graham was a sociable person who liked to enjoy himself.

On the night of his death he was celebrating both his birthday and the recent birth of his son.

"Since becoming a father he rarely drank and had restructured his work in order to spend more time with his family.

Unfortunately this rare opportunity to let his hair down resulted in his death and left his young family fatherless.

Graham brought us great happiness throughout his life and is sorely missed.

We realise we are not the only family that has been affected by this case and that it has impacted and had repercussions for other families too.

We hope this case will highlight the dangers of drink and if it can prevent any more deaths, we feel Graham's death was not in vain."

The jury heard statements yesterday that the accused men provided to garda following the death.

In a statement, Mr Dalton, of Kilfithmone, Borrisleigh, Co Tipperary admitted to officers that he had served the final drink to Mr Parish -- also known as Shaggy -- after being permitted to do so by his bar manager, Mr Wright.

Mr Dalton told gardai that there was Baileys, Southern Comfort, Jack Daniels and gin in the glass and that Mr Parish's friends were betting him to drink it.

The barman said the alleged victim was "fully aware" of what was in the glass.

The court heard that Mr Dalton had worked in bars for nearly 10 years prior to that and he had not served a drink like that previously.

"I asked Gary as I didn't think you could serve more than a triple," he said.

He told gardai he did not think Mr Parish was going to down the shots in one go and believed the drink was to be shared by the group.

"If I ever realised he was going to slam it, I wouldn't have served it," Mr Dalton said.

He added that he had never been trained on how to dispense spirits and was just shown how to pull a pint.

"And there you are, you are a barman," he said.

In his statement to gardai, Mr Wright, also of Kilfithmone, Borrisleigh, Co Tipperary, said he put a double vodka into the alleged victim's pint around 10.30pm as requested by his friends. He admitted that he was "a bit iffy about it", but said he "didn't see the badness in it" and said the customers were having a laugh among themselves.

He said Mr Dalton gave Mr Parish another drink with three shots in it -- a vodka, a Jagermeister and something else.

He said he observed Mr Parish when Mr Dalton asked him was it okay to put 10 shots into a glass.

"He was a tall and broad guy and looked okay. He wasn't falling around at that stage. He had eight pints and five shots at this stage," Mr Wright told officers.

"I didn't see the danger in giving him the shots," he added.

Mr Parish downed the drink in one go and later collapsed off his stool and was brought upstairs to a conference room.

The court heard that till receipts taken from the bar showed that €30 worth of shots, or eight measures of gin or vodka, were purchased in one transaction before the bar closed. There was no transaction to reflect that a triple or double spirit measure was bought prior to this.

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