Council faces trial by judge and jury over death

Cork County Council faces the prospect of trial by judge and jury following the service of a book of evidence on the local authority yesterday.

The council appeared as a defendant in Cork District Court yesterday in a health-and-safety prosecution arising out of the death of a workman during tree-felling in 2012.

Michael O’Donovan, a 44-year-old father of three, from Aghabullogue, Co Cork, and an employee of Cork County Council, was killed while working on a compound off Carr’s Hill, Douglas, in November 2012.

The DPP has brought a case against the local authority on health-and-safety grounds.

John Brosnan, the State’s solicitor, confirmed yesterday that a book of evidence had been served on Cork County Council. Andrew O’Connell, defending, indicated that the council was pleading not guilty to the charges.

Judge Olann Kelleher then sent the case forward for trial by judge and jury at the next county sessions of Cork Circuit Criminal Court, commencing on April 14.

Judge Kelleher said he appreciated the defendant was a local authority and said that, although it was somewhat unusual, he was still legally required to give the notice in this case in relation to a defendant using a possible alibi defence as he was required to do it in all cases.

There are three charges against the accused regarding health and safety.

The first count states that the county council, being an employer within the meaning of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act of 2005, at a place of work under its control — Carr’s Hill — failed to manage and conduct work activity, namely the felling of trees using a chainsaw, in such a way as to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the safety, health, and welfare at work of an employee.

The second charge accuses the local authority of failing to manage the work, as a consequence of which an employee suffered personal injuries and died.

The third count is for allegedly failing to provide information, instruction, or training in relation to the risks and dangers inherent in the work activity of felling trees by using a chainsaw.

The incident occurred near the Vicarage housing estate just before 3pm on the date in question. Colleagues alerted the emergency services and Mr O’Donovan was rushed by ambulance to Cork University Hospital, where he later died.


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