Jury fails to reach verdict on dangerous driving causing death charge

The jury in the trial of a 21-year-old Spiddal man charged with dangerous driving causing death of a woman at Inverin, in the summer of 2008, failed to reach a verdict on the charge.

After over three and half hours of deliberation the 12 member jury told the Galway Circuit Court last Tuesday evening that there was no prospect of their reaching a majority verdict on the charge of dangerous driving causing death which had been brought against Ciaran O’Laoi, who had been involved in a fatal traffic accident which resulted in the death of Mary Dillane at Minna, Inverin, on July 19, 2008.

O’Laoi of Baile an tSagairt, Spiddal, had been further charged with dangerous driving at Ballinahown, south Inverin, on the same date. The jury did reach an unanimous verdict in respect of this charge, finding O’Laoi not guilty of dangerous driving but guilty of careless driving.

At the end of the trial, which had lasted three days, State barrister Conor Fahy said in his closing statement that O’Laoi, who had been 19 at the time and a provisional licence holder, had allegedly been seen by witnesses driving at speeds of between 70 and 80mph before rounding a bend and approaching the junction at Minna Cross which had very limited visibility.

The court heard how O’Laoi had come to a hill and had seen a VW Passat, driven by Mrs Dillane, stationary in the middle of the road and in his path. O’Laoi had told gardai in a statement that he applied the brakes and had tried to swerve out of the way but collided with Mrs Dillane’s car side on.

In his closing statement defence barrister Martin Giblin SC said that the prosecution had failed to provide sufficient evidence to find O’Laoi guilty of dangerous driving causing death. He said that an “emergency had been created” by Mrs Dillane who had driven her Passat out from a side road just before O’Laoi had got to the scene, giving him “at most” four seconds to react.

At 7.01pm on Tuesday the jury foreperson told Judge Raymond Groarke a unaimous verdict had been reached on count one; the jury found O’Laoi not guilty of dangerous driving but guilty of careless driving at Ballinahown, south Inverin. When asked if there was a possibility of reaching a majority verdict on the second count, that of dangerous driving causing the death of Mrs Dillane at Minna, Inverin, the foreperson said that there was “no prospect”. Judge Groarke thanked the jury members and exempted them from further jury service for five years.

The case was adjourned to March 9 where the court is expected to be informed if there will be a retrial on the dangerous driving causing death charge. Sentencing for the second charge, for which a verdict was given, was adjourned to a later date.

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