Driver whose vehicle was on wrong side of road guilty of causing couple’s death

A motorist was yesterday found guilty of dangerous driving causing the deaths of a married couple when his 4x4 went onto the wrong side of the road and ploughed into their vehicle.

A motorist was yesterday found guilty of dangerous driving causing the deaths of a married couple when his 4x4 went onto the wrong side of the road and ploughed into their vehicle.

The jury of five women and seven men at Limerick Circuit Court returned a unanimous guilty verdict against Michael Harty after less than two hours.

Harty, aged 29, of Askeaton, will be sentenced next Wednesday.

Maurice Hartnett, aged 61, and his wife Margaret, aged 59, of Gurteen, Ballingarry, died in the crash at around 5.45pm on Jul 29, 2009.

A medical report from the Mid-Western Regional Hospital showed Harty had nearly twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood.

This report was obtained by gardaí after emergency medical staff refused to take a blood alcohol test when Harty was admitted, due his serious condition.

Anthony Sammon SC, for the defence, in the absence of the jury, argued that the privacy of medical records was constitutionally guaranteed and that material obtained in breach of that was inadmissible in evidence.

Judge Carroll Moran ruled that, while there was a right to privacy, it was a qualified right and the gardaí had a right to obtain materials in a criminal investigation. He allowed the medical record material to be given in evidence.

The accident occurred on a stretch of road between Askeaton and Rathkeale where there was a double bend. A Garda investigator told the jury a gouge mark on the road indicated that the impact occurred on Mr Hartnett’s side of the road.

When interviewed some months after the accident, Harty said he could not remember anything of the day of the crash and his last recollection was of feeding horses the day before.

Judge Moran adjourned sentencing and allowed bail.

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