Judge clashes with DPP over road death case

LOCALLY-based District Court judge Des Zaidan has again criticised the Director of Public Prosecutions’ office over a charge brought against a man following a fatal road accident in Naas.

LOCALLY-based District Court judge Des Zaidan has again criticised the Director of Public Prosecutions’ office over a charge brought against a man following a fatal road accident in Naas.

The DPP’s role is to decide what, if any, charges are brought against an individual after reading a file prepared by investigating gardai.

55 year old John Allen with an address at Uppertown, Dunlavin, was disqualified from driving for 4 years at Naas Court last week and fined €1,200.

He admitted driving without due care and attention at Loch Bui (close to Fairgreen), Naas, on August 8, 2011, in an accident which claimed the life of 78 year old pedestrian Peg Goulding of Lakeside Park, Naas.

Mrs Goulding was walking to mass at 7am when she was struck by the defendant’s BMW car.

The initial court hearing was told she was “clipped” by the vehicle door mirror and the car was partly on the incorrect side of the road.

The defendant had a previous conviction for driving with excess alcohol, for which he was disqualified from driving for a year in October 2003 at Athy Court.

Judge Zaidan effectively sent the case back to the DPP to establish whether updated legislation could be used in the case.

The updated legislation would allow him to send the case for trial to the circuit court, which has the power to impose more stringent penalties.

However on Thursday last (May 17) he was told that the new legislation did not come into force until October 2011 – two months after the accident – and could not be applied to cases which arose prior to then.

At the time he said he felt the defendant “cut across the junction” and be believed he drove across in “one continuous movement”.

Last week he noted the DPP had decided to proceed with a careless driving charge “not even careless driving causing death.”

He added: “His behaviour led to the death of Mrs Goulding. It’s tragic and shouldn’t have happened. I differ from the DPP. He didn’t set out to kill but his actions caused her death.”

The €1,200 was €300 short of the maximum and the disqualification was not mandatory.”

The court had heard there was no evidence to suggest speed was a factor in the accident and there was no evidence of alcohol or drug consumption.

The defendant placed himself on the incorrect side of the road and Mrs Goulding was about a metre from the footpath when the collision occurred.

No CCTV footage was available; there were no witnesses and it is understood a prosecution would have been difficult to pursue without evidence provided by the defendant himself.

Solicitor Peter Doyle said the defendant, a separated man with two grown up children, is well regarded in his local community and had worked continuously until earlier this year. He is involved with Dunlavin GAA club and trains the under 16 steam.

“This has devastated him and he has tried to deal with it in a dignified way, pleading guilty from the start. He has to live with this for the rest of his life,” he said.