Prosecution case not strong enough in careless driving trial

A jury was yesterday told to bring in a verdict of not guilty, in the case of a woman accused of careless driving causing the death of an oncoming motorcyclist.

Yesterday was the third day of a trial in Tralee.

Circuit Court Judge Thomas E O’Donnell told the six men and six women, who had been sworn in on Wednesday, that the prosecution case was not strong enough.

The jury had not begun its deliberations and the judge’s decision came after an application by the defence.

The driver of a year-old Kia Rio, Kelly Ann Roantree, aged 34, of Clounametig, Abbeydorney, Co Kerry, denied careless driving causing the death of father of one, Mark Shanahan, aged 29, of Lixnaw, and also Ballymullen, Tralee, sometime after 6pm on July 14, 2013.

The accident occurred at Clounametig, Abbeydorney, on the R556 regional road.

Ms Roantree had been returning home from food shopping in Tralee and was crossing to her driveway.

The State’s case was that she entered the path of the motorcyclist coming from Abbeydorney, the jury had been told on the opening day.

Defence barrister John O’Sullivan made an application at the conclusion of the State case, Judge O’Donnell told the jury yesterday morning.

“I have given my decision and, as a result of that, will be asking you to enter a plea of not guilty,” said Judge O’Donnell.

Judge O’Donnell said he was not at liberty to tell the jury his reasons, “other than on the basis of the strength of the prosecution case and the standard of proof that is required”.

He also said the jury would want an explanation as to why it took so long getting the case to trial — the accident had occurred in July, 2013, and it was now November, 2017, he said.

This was because of legal issues, which affected a number of other cases, also, arising from a conviction in the O’Shea case in Naas, in 2013. The latter had gone to the Court of Appeal and then to the Supreme Court, the judge said.

The Supreme Court’s decision was made this year.

“Through no fault of anyone, this case has had to await that outcome,” Judge O’Donnell said.

He thanked the jury for their attendance, excused them from jury service for five years, and confirmed, with Tom Rice, prosecuting, that the order was not guilty by direction of the trial judge.

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