IN a landmark decision, a court ruled that a man who died from acute alcohol poisoning, was responsible for his own drinking and bar staff who served him could not be blamed.
Two hotel staff at Hayes’s Hotel, Thurles, were cleared of the manslaughter of a resident who died after a night’s drinking in which he downed drinks, including a combination of up to 10 shots served in a pint glass.
In the first case of its kind in this country, Judge Tom Teehan directed a jury at Nenagh Circuit Court to find bar manager, Gary Wright, aged 34 and barman, Aidan Dalton, aged 28, not guilty of the manslaughter of Graham Parish, aged 26, from East Lancashire, England.
Mr Wright and Mr Dalton, both of Kilfithmone, Borrisoleigh, Co Tipperary, had both denied the charge.
Mr Parish died from acute alcohol poisoning after a night drinking with five other English men in the hotel bar when celebrating his 26th birthday, on June 30, 2008.
Mr Parish collapsed in the bar after downing up to nine pints, including two mixed with shots, and a mix of eight to 10 shots in a pint glass. He was brought upstairs by some of those drinking and left on the floor of a meeting room, as they found him too heavy to bring to his bedroom.
The following morning the hotel night porter raised the alarm when he could not arouse Mr Parish.
Garda Margaret Leahy, who was called to the hotel by the night porter, found that Mr Parish was dead.
During the birthday party, when the mix of shots was ordered as the last round, Mr Dalton asked Mr Wright if it was okay to serve it. Mr Wright said it was, after looking at Mr Parish who looked okay.
In statements to gardaí, both said the group would not have been served the large mix of shorts in the pint glass if they thought it was to be given to Mr Parish to drink on his own.
They were under the impression the mix of shots was to be shared by the group as they individually selected different shots for the mix.
Judge Teehan, on the sixth day of the trial, following submissions by Michael Delaney, defending Mr Wright and Aidan Doyle, defending Mr Dalton, said no jury could safely bring in a guilty verdict because of the issue of causation in relation to Mr Parish’s death.
Four things were needed in manslaughter, he said.
These were that the two accused had a duty of care to Mr Parish; the accused had breached that duty; there was gross negligence and that the negligence of the two accused was the cause of Mr Parish’s death.
Judge Teehan said the prosecution had made the first three of the four cases, but not the fourth which was cause.
Judge Teehan said courts in many jurisdictions have repeatedly and trenchantly stated the importance of individual responsibility where the consumption of alcohol is concerned, and this must not be lost sight of.
He said the defence pointed out that if a person is accused of having committed a crime, it was no excuse for the accused to say he was intoxicated to the extent he had not memory of it. While Mr Parish was not an accused person, the same situation applied.
Judge Teehan said across the common law world, the courts have restated individual responsibility regarding the taking of alcohol and Mr Parish took a decision to consume these drinks.
Mr Parish, he said, took a decision to consume that drink and this was a supervening event which broke the chain of causation.
He had come to the conclusion if it went to the jury and there was a conviction, that conviction could not be regarded as safe, even after the jury was fully and properly instructed.
Judge Teehan said they were dealing in this case with a fatality. Both defendants, he said, seemed to be decent honourable people.
The impression, he said, formed of Mr Parish was that he was a person who was extremely well liked by his family and friends.
“He was a very treasured member of his family and a number of people have lost a much loved relative.”
The judge tendered his sympathy to family members who were in court.
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