In a potentially landmark case brought under new liquor liability laws, a bar manager and barman working at Hayes Hotel, Thurles, yesterday pleaded not guilty at Nenagh Circuit Court to the manslaughter of Graham Parish.
Mr Parish died from acute intoxicating poisoning after a drinking binge in the hotel in the company of five other Englishmen.
State prosecutor Paddy McCarthy, opening the case, said it was the state’s case that barman Aidan Dalton, 26, was given the OK by bar manager Gary Wright, 34, to serve Mr Parish eight to 10 shorts in the one glass after hours of heavy drinking. Mr McCarthy said the state must prove to the jury there was a causative link between the actions of the two accused in giving the drink and the victim’s death.
Both defendants have addresses at Kilfithmone, Borrisoleigh.
Mr Parish, from Calder Terrace, Lomeshaye village near Nelson, East Lancashire, was a resident at the hotel when he was found dead slumped in an upstairs conference room.
He had booked into the hotel on June 30, 2008, when he arrived in Thurles to do work at the Dew Valley meat plant.
Mr McCarthy said after booking into the hotel, Mr Parish arrived at the bar at around 6.30pm and started drinking pints of Guinness. He was subsequently joined by five other English workers who were also staying in Thurles to celebrate Mr Parish’s 28th birthday. They drank heavily and, at about 10pm, Mr Parish put a short into his pint and drank it. Unknown to him another two vodkas were put into his pint, which he also drank.
A drinking competition started and Mr Parish said he could down 10 spirits faster than any of the others could down a pint or half-pint.
Mr McCarthy said it was the state’s case that the barman Aidan Dalton asked the bar manager Wright if it was OK to give him the shots and the bar manager said it was. Shortly after, Mr Parish collapsed and was taken by the group to the upstairs conference room, where he was found dead the following morning.
Mr McCarthy claimed the two bar staff were guilty of gross negligence and were both “actors” in the cause of Mr Parish’s death.
The bar staff, he said, had a duty of care not to cause a risk of substantial injury.
Philip Mahony, night porter at the hotel, said he arrived on duty at midnight on June 30/July 1, 2008, and Wright said a man had to be lifted upstairs by his friends and they could not get him his room and to check on him.
Mr Mahony said he checked on the man, who was lying asleep in the Commercial Room. He was on his stomach and his head was turned to the right.
At about 6am, he decided to wake this man up, as he felt he had enough sleep and would try and get him to his bedroom. He called to the man, tapped him on the shoulder and could not get a response. He checked for a pulse and did not get one and saw vomit on the man’s lips.
Mr Moloney said the gardaí and an ambulance were called.
Craig Bateson, one of the five English workers who drank with Mr Parish, told the court how they had gone on a night out in Hayes Hotel, where some of them were staying to celebrate Mr Parish’s birthday.
Mr Bateson said by 11pm he had consumed about 11 pints of Guinness and suggested Mr Parish would have had a few more than that. At this stage Mr Parish said he would do his party trick and drink a half-pint of spirits faster than any of the others could drink a half-pint of lager.
Mr Bateson said the barman brought down the shots to them and Graham put them into a half-pint glass and drank them in one go.
About 10 minutes later, Graham fell off the stool and they tried to pick him up. They got him to a room upstairs where they left him on his side snoring and asleep.
In cross-examination carried out by Aidan Doyle, SC, Mr Bateson said it was known Mr Parish could down drink very fast but denied there were bets of £500 that Mr Parish could not do the drinking he said he could do.
When it was put to Mr Bateson that the barman, Aidan Dalton, was not aware of the drinking challenge, he replied: “I believe he were.”
Another one of the group, Marcus Ludwell, said that at one stage one of the group put a double vodka into Mr Parish’s pint and when he drank it he said it was a nice mix.
Mr Ludwell said five of them picked a spirit each from the back of the bar which Mr Parish drank. These he said were served by the bar staff and he paid €40 for them.
The trial before Judge Tom Teehan and a jury is expected to last between three and four days.
In court for the hearing were David and Julie Parish, parents of Graham Parish, along with his sister, Jess.