JUDGE James McNulty has asked for the DPP to clarify if the district court has sufficient jurisdiction to rule on a case of careless driving, causing death.
Judge McNulty made his request at a sitting of Skibbereen District Court, where Catriona Hurley (67) of Coolnagrane, Skibbereen was due for sentencing.
Catriona Hurley pleaded guilty to careless driving causing the death of cyclist Teresa O’Brien (48) from Clonakilty, at Aghill on April 7th, 2019.
It was Judge John King who had first accepted jurisdiction when the case came before the district court earlier this year.
However, Judge McNulty, having received the victim impact statement from Teresa O’Brien’s daughters, said that Judge King may not have been ‘fully sighted’ and with the penalties in the district court for careless driving set at a fine not exceeding €5,000 and/or 12 months in prison, he is concerned that his court does not have sufficient jurisdiction on a case of careless driving causing death.
‘I have to express some respectful reservations about a matter of such gravity being dealt with in the district court,’ Judge McNulty said.
‘A woman lost her life when she was struck while cycling, in daylight on a sunny day when road conditions were good, visibility was clear and there was no oncoming or following traffic. So, that is a strange set of circumstances.’
The judge said the decision to prosecute this case in the district court was made by the DPP and while the prosecution may have been hampered by the lack of witnesses he appreciated there were difficulties for the DPP in bringing this prosecution.
‘The fact remains that a citizen lost her life due to carelessness of another citizen, and I just think it falls a little short of the dignity and respect that should be shown where a citizen has lost her life that such matters should be disposed of in the district court.
‘Such matters should be dealt with at a higher level, the district court is the busiest court in the land and it is not befitting the enormity of the loss for it to be disposed of here,’ Judge McNulty told the court.
State solicitor Malachy Boohig told the court that he thought the judge’s comments were ‘pertinent and relevant’ and that he would refer the matter to the DPP for her instructions.
The case was adjourned until October 13th.