Road traffic cases to dominate courts

Fatal and serious injury road traffic cases are set to dominate criminal sessions at the Circuit Criminal Courts in the south-west in the coming months, a court heard yesterday.

Up to a dozen cases under the Road Traffic Acts involving dangerous driving causing death or serious injury are to be dealt with in October/November at the Tralee Circuit Criminal Court alone.

Further such cases will be dealt with in February and March.

The call over list yesterday in Tralee fixed dates for the trials involving dangerous driving causing death, dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm, and also careless driving causing death.

A number of sexual assault cases have also been listed.

Some of the road traffic allegations brought by the DPP first came before the courts in 2014. Some of the incidents involving deaths and serious injury go back to 2013.

There had been a number of adjournments. The delay was because legal issues with the road traffic legislation had to be decided by the Supreme Court, the court in Tralee was told.

At the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee yesterday, Judge Thomas E O’Donnell

said he was conscious there was a lot of stress on “all parties”.

The fact so many were now on the list this term was because the courts had had to wait for Supreme Court decisions. The cases had to wait until a question of intention and fault was resolved.

The relatively new indictable offence of careless driving causing death, section 52 of the Road Traffic Act enacted in 2011, had to be clarified following a decision of the Court of Appeal which allowed an appeal against conviction at Naas Circuit Criminal Court of a driver who was convicted of careless driving causing the death of another man who had been on traffic duty at roadworks in Co Kildare.

The jury in Naas was told the offence was one of strict liability, but the man’s legal team argued successfully at the Court of Appeal that ‘mens rea’ or intention was an element and should have been canvassed in the Circuit Court judge’s address to the jury.

In December 2015, the Court of Appeal held that in order for a conviction of careless driving causing death, a jury would have to be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that there had been intention or reckless behaviour in the manner of the accused driving.

The Supreme Court this summer determined it is not necessary to establish mens rea in a prosecution for careless driving which results in a death. Even where there was no intention, fault can be found.

Senior Kerry solicitor Padraig O’Connell who is representing a number of the defendants in the cases said it was appropriate the cases were given priority, because of the delay. Other courts too in the south-west would in effect be monopolised by the cases until they were dealt with.


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