Garda convicted of careless driving causing death of pensioner

Warren Farrell (35) exhales heavily and hangs his head briefly after hearing verdict

Garda Warren Farrell was on duty as the driver of a marked patrol car responding to a panic button call at a Topaz garage when the car struck Elizabeth Core. Photograph: Collins Courts

Garda Warren Farrell was on duty as the driver of a marked patrol car responding to a panic button call at a Topaz garage when the car struck Elizabeth Core. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

A jury has convicted a serving garda of careless driving causing the death of an elderly pedestrian four years ago.

Warren Farrell (35), an officer serving in Clondalkin, Co Dublin, was on duty as the driver of a marked patrol car responding to a panic button call at a Topaz garage when the car struck Elizabeth Core.

He had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of the 75-year-old as she crossed the Fonthill Road South, Dublin, on August 28th, 2014.

On Monday Judge Cormac Quinn advised jurors that they could convict Garda Farrell on a charge of dangerous driving causing death or of careless driving causing death.

This Tuesday afternoon after about four hours of deliberations the jury returned a majority verdict, finding him guilty of careless driving.

Driving manual

Earlier the judge told the jury that careless driving could be described as driving that falls below the standard of care and attention expected of a reasonably competent driver, creating a risk of harm to others.

The defendant exhaled heavily and hung his head briefly after hearing the verdict. The judge remanded him on continuing bail to February 22nd for sentence.

James Dwyer SC, prosecuting, had asked the court to give the prosecution time to prepare victim-impact statements. Members of the Core family, who were present in court throughout the trial, nodded that this date suited.

The judge extended his sympathy to the Core family and thanked the jurors.

In his closing speech on Monday Mr Dwyer told the jury that Garda Farrell made an assumption that Mrs Core was aware of the patrol car which the State contended was travelling at about 56 to 58km/h at the point of impact in a 50km/h zone.

He said this was an assumption he couldn’t make. And he cited the Garda Response Driving Course manual which states: “It must never be assumed that the sounding instrument will be heard by other road users and pedestrians.”

The jury heard there was conflict in the witness accounts as to whether the siren was active when the patrol car was on the Fonthill Road.

Mr Dwyer said that Garda Farrell had a clear view of the pedestrian from 200m before the point of collision, but that heavy braking only began at 10 to 13m before this point.

“Having seen her he decided to continue to drive at the same speed. We have 187m to 190m of driving before hard braking takes place. Having seen her in the road, he didn’t decide to ease off. His failure to slow down, or to stop, or to drive at a speed which allowed him to react, is dangerous driving by any standard,” said Mr Dwyer.

Defence case

Closing the defence case Patrick McGrath SC told the jury that this was a terrible tragedy, but no crime was committed.

“There are many situations where a tragedy occurs and no one is at fault,” he said.

He said this was a case where somebody made an honest, and what was believed at the time to be a reasonable decision, which turns out to have consequences never intended or foreseen.

He urged the jurors to look at the decision-making process of a man asked to respond to an incident as quickly as possible. He told them the State’s forensic expert concluded that Garda Farrell believed Mrs Core would not continue crossing the road and he was surprised when she did.

The evidence was this cost in the order of two to 2½ seconds before Garda Farrell began braking and reduced the distance available to him and reduced his ability to avoid the collision.

“You cannot be satisfied that the decisions made were outside the range of decisions which a reasonable Garda driver asked to respond to this emerging and potentially dangerous situation would make.

“He went out to do this duty. He no doubt regrets every single day of his life what happened that day,” said Mr McGrath.