THE jury in the case where a Rosscarbery woman was seriously injured by loose bars from a passing trailer, has found the driver not guilty of dangerous driving, causing serious harm.
However, the driver, Michael Herlihy, (38), of Derry, Rosscarbery was found guilty of failing to take adequate precaution with the load.
Sitting at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, the jury took approximately three hours to return a verdict of not guilty in the case on Wednesday night.
Mr Herlihy had been charged with dangerous driving, causing serious bodily harm to Frances O’Driscoll on April 16th 2016 at Causeway, Rosscarbery.
Tom Creed, defence barrister, said after the verdict that the accused ‘certainly feels responsible … it is something which he is extremely sorry for, and he will have to live with it.’
Mr Creed said Herlihy was going to be much more vigilant. He also said he needed to be able to drive for work.
Prosecution barrister, Siobhán Lankford, said the maximum penalty was one of €1,000 for the load offence, of which he was convicted. Judge Brian O’Callaghan fined him €550.
The judge said there was no element of intention.
Judge O’Callaghan said that he did not like the term ‘closure’, but he hoped Mrs O’Driscoll’s life would get better and better.
During the trial, the jury heard that Ms O’Driscoll had been jogging in Rosscarbery on that morning, and was seriously injured when struck with iron bars that came loose on a passing trailer.
Ms Lankford said Frances O’Driscoll was walking on the footpath on the causeway in Rosscarbery at a time when the defendant was driving his jeep with a trailer at the back.
‘It had steel reinforcement bars strapped or ratcheted to the trailer. The bars came loose and projected out of the trailer and dragged on the ground. They hit Frances O’Driscoll and knocked her on the pavement causing her injuries,’ Ms Lankford alleged.
Frances O’Driscoll, who suffered serious facial and head injuries, while the tibia and fibula of both legs were broken, was not in court, but her statement of the events of that morning was read out.
‘I passed the Celtic Ross Hotel. I was on the footpath heading for home. I had my headphones on. I don’t remember anything after that. I know now I was struck by steel reinforcement bars that knocked me to the ground. I had major fractures and suffered loss of sight in my left eye. I was detained for approximately 60 days in hospital. I was and still am in rehabilitation in Bantry,’ Ms O’Driscoll stated.
A memo of an interview that Mr Herlihy gave to gardaí was read in court to Judge Brian O’Callaghan and the jury.
‘I spotted a woman out walking. I waved to her. I knew her. I passed her. I saw the woman after falling,’ Michael Herlihy told gardaí.
Mr Herlihy said he was too upset to speak at the scene but pointed to Mrs O’Driscoll’s home as it was being discussed that someone should go to notify her family of the accident.
‘To this day I don’t know what happened. Not a morning or a night goes past that I don’t think about Frances O’Driscoll,’ he said.
Mr Herlihy, a carpenter, had gone to Lisavaird that Saturday morning to buy 12 six-metre bars of steel for foundations of a wall he was building in his garden. He strapped the bars to the bed of the trailer leaving them overhang at the back because of their length. He used a ratchet-style strap to tie them up and tied the strapping onto attachments at the side of the trailer.
Christy Lane said he drove to the Causeway that morning with his brother Noel and both of them were on the Causeway footpath when they were both knocked to the ground.
Christy Lane stated: ‘I saw a jeep with a trailer and reinforced bars after shifting. They were now crossways on the trailer, hanging out the side. They were being dragged along. The driver of the jeep stopped 10 or 15 yards away. He got out and came back and asked were we alright.
‘Then I looked up and saw the woman on the ground lying on the footpath. The driver of the jeep went up to see if this woman was okay. The woman was injured. One leg looked shattered completely and the other broken.’ In her closing speech, Ms Lankford referred to the evidence of Thomas Brosnan, a vehicle inspector who made some pertinent points, including that the bars could have been made safer with a longer trailer.
Tom Creed said that the alleged dangerous driving was not as cut and dried, as the bars may have been becoming loose for some distance, but might only have been sideways to a greater degree for a short distance before the accident.