Jury begins deliberation on hotel gas death

Richard Davis

A jury will today commence deliberations in the trial of a plumber accused of the manslaughter of a woman at an hotel four years ago.

Richard Davis, aged 46, from Killanully, Ballygarvan, Co Cork, is on trial for manslaughter of Miriam Reidy and two breaches of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.

His company, Davis Heating and Plumbing Contractors of Marina Commercial Park in Cork, is charged with two similar breaches of the safety act relating to the conversion of a gas boiler at the Trident Hotel, in Kinsale on January 4, 2011. All charges are denied.

Ms Reidy had been at a hen party in the town, along with her sister and friends.

After 10 days of evidence, Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin addressed the jurors for most of yesterday at Cork Circuit Criminal Court. It is anticipated that he will send them out after 10.30am today to deliberate on their verdicts.

The judge said: “Mr Davis did not himself give evidence. It is important you realise he does not have to. You cannot draw any adverse inference against him because he did not give evidence. There is no onus on the defendant to prove anything.”

Concerning the defence’s approach to the case, Judge Ó Donnabháin said: “The purpose of the defence’s cross-examination of witnesses is not to prove anything. The purpose of it is to raise any reasonable doubt — the defects of the heating system, defects in the blowers, defects in the fan, defects in the ducts — all of it was outside his control. That is what you should be looking at. What he did is one thing but these are factors you must look at.”

Considering the jury’s deliberations, he said: “Start now and ask yourself the questions. This is the easy part. Did the gas installer have a duty of care to the person in the hotel, to do it in a manner that was safe. Was there a duty of care? I think yes.

“Was he negligent in the manner he did it? He did not read the instructions. He relied on O’Connell and O’Sullivan [two suppliers who advised him about changing a chip in the boiler] and he did not use the Kane analyser [a device used to measure carbon monoxide emissions]. Perhaps the answer to the question, was he negligent, perhaps the answer is yes.

“But the real question is, was he grossly negligent? It is a question of degree.”

Judge Ó Donnabháin then gave examples illustrating the degree of seriousness, rising from inadvertence and carelessness to negligence and gross negligence.

He said the state had to prove the negligence was gross and that any reasonable person would realise there was a high likelihood of injury or death if it was not done properly.

He reminded the jury the key to the defence case was that the commissioning of the boiler was not the only matter in causing the death.


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