Bar staff acquitted over death

Thu, May 12, 2011, 01:00

Two bar staff accused of the manslaughter of an Englishman who died from acute alcohol intoxication have been acquitted by direction of the judge.

Gary Wright (34) and Aidan Dalton (28) both denied the manslaughter of 26-year-old Graham Parish from East Lancashire, who died following a night of heavy drinking at Hayes Hotel in Thurles, Co Tipperary, on June 30th, 2008.

The State alleged that Mr Wright and Mr Dalton, both with addresses at Kilfithmone, Borrisoleigh, Co Tipperary, were guilty of “gross negligence” in allowing Mr Parish be served a single drink containing at least eight measures of spirits.

Judge Tom Teehan explained his decision to the six men and six women of the jury by saying the defence lawyers had applied in their absence yesterday for a direction to acquit the two accused on the basis that that the State had failed to prove that they had a case to answer.

He said that there were four ingredients to the charge which had to be met by the State - firstly that the two accused had a duty of care to the deceased, secondly that they had breached that duty of care and thirdly that their negligence in that breach amounted to a gross negligence.

He said that he was satisfied that the State had met all these three requirements but that there was also fourth ingredient or standard required of the State, namely that the gross negligence of the two accused was the cause of Mr Parish's death.

He said the courts in common law jurisdictions across the world had attached a great importance to the issue of individual responsibility - particularly in relation to consumption of large quantities of alcohol - and he had to consider that when assessing the fourth ingredient.

He noted that Mr Parish had to make a decision even after Mr Wright and Mr Dalton had come to the conclusion to allow him be served and that decision was he was going to consume the pint glass containing the eight shots or shorts.

"He then took a decision to consume that drink and that was a supervening event which broke the chain of causation [between the accused's gross negligence and Mr Parish's death]," said Judge Teehan.

He said the issue of whether or not someone was drunk was not an excuse nor a defence in the case of somebody accused of a criminal offence and although Mr Parish was not an accused person, the same principle applied to his situation - drunkenness was not an excuse or defence.

Judge Teehan said he believed because of this issue of individual responsibility in that Mr Parish decided to drink the shots, it would not be right to allow the matter go to the jury as, if they convicted the accused, the conviction could not be regarded as safe and reliable.

He directed the jury to acquit both Mr Wright and Mr Dalton of the manslaughter charge and said although certain things had been said about them during the course of the trial, they were both, he believed, "very decent and honourable men".

He also extended his sympathies to the family of the late Mr Parish and said it was important to remember the case involved a fatality where a young man had died and that he hoped that none of Mr Parish's family had felt the court was disrespectful to him in the evidence it heard.

"If any disrepect was taken, I am certain I speak for everyone when I say no disrepect was intended," said Judge Teehan, noting that Mr Parish was "extremely well liked by his friends and acquaintances" and "deeply treasured by his family".

Speaking afterward, Mr Parish’s parents David and Julie and his sister Jess said they hoped he had not died in vain.

In a statement, the family said the young father of two was a sociable person and a doting parent. “On the night of his death, he was celebrating both his birthday and the recent birth of his son,” they said. Since becoming a father, he rarely drank and had restructured his work to spend more time with his family.

They paid tribute to the qualified design engineer, describing him as a wonderful, kind and loving person who is sorely missed.

“We realise we are not the only family that has been affected by this case and that it has impacted and had repercussions for other families too,” they added. “We hope this case will highlight the dangers of drink and if it can prevent any more deaths, we feel Graham’s death was not in vain.”

Outside the courthouse, Mr Wright and Mr Dalton's solicitor JJ Fitzgerald said the pair - who still work at the Hayes Hotel - were “much relieved”.

In a brief statement, he said: “Gary Wright and Aidan Dalton would firstly like to extend their sympathies to the Parish family on the tragic loss of Graham Parish. It has been a difficult time for all concerned.

“After a six-day trial, the presiding judge directed the case be withdrawn from the jury. This has been a stressful time on both men’s lives and they are happy this has been brought to a close.”

Additional reporting: PA