A young Wicklow woman has been cleared of a charge of careless driving causing the death of a pedestrian on the outskirts of Laragh, Co Wicklow, four years ago following a trial at Wicklow Circuit Criminal Court.
Emer O’Dea (27), of Ballydowling, Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, had pleaded not guilty to the offence but had admitted that she was driving the Volkswagen Golf which collided with Noel O’Callaghan shortly after 2am on April 7th, 2019 and caused his death.
A jury of six men and six women returned a unanimous verdict of “not guilty” in the case after deliberating for around three hours.
A trial at Wicklow Circuit Criminal Court heard Mr O’Callaghan, a married father of four of Ballinguilly, Ballincollig, Co Cork, had been lying on the road between Lynham’s Hotel and the Beechwood estate in Laragh when the collision occurred.
The jury also found O’Dea not guilty of two other charges under the Road Traffic Act of failing to offer assistance and failing to keep her vehicle at the scene of an accident by a majority verdict.
Another motorist who was travelling in the opposite direction, Nikita Byrne-McCoy, told the trial that she had slowed down and stopped after seeing an object on the opposite side of the road which she initially thought was a bag of rubbish or a deer as another car was coming towards her.
Ms Byrne-McCoy said the accused’s vehicle struck the object like “hitting a speed bump.”
Another motorist, Anthony Egan, said he also saw an object on the road and stopped his van.
The trial heard evidence that Mr O’Callaghan’s body was dragged for almost 19 metres along the road.
The court was also told that damage was caused to the front grille and the underside of McCoy’s vehicle as a result of the collision.
In a closing submission, counsel for the DPP, Jane Hyland SC, said O’Dea had come back to the scene of the collision eight minutes later after it had occurred after she had first gone to the nearby house of her boyfriend, Mark McNally.
Although Ms Hyland said the defendant would not have known that Mr O’Connell was killed almost instantaneously, she pointed out that O’Dea had made no attempt to get assistance for him.
The court heard O’Dea had given different versions of what had occurred in two statements she had provided to gardaí.
Counsel for O’Dea, Paul Murray SC, said there was no evidence that his client had been speeding at the time of the incident and there were no defects with her vehicle.
Mr Murray said O’Dea had been attending a 21st birthday party on the night but had drunk no alcohol.
He said she had slowed down as there was an ongoing vehicle with bright lights.
Mr Murray claimed O’Dea originally thought the object on the road was a plastic bag but realised after the collision that she had struck a person whom she knew would need help.
However, he said she went to her boyfriend’s house, where she had collapsed screaming, to get help as she had no signal on her mobile phone and went straight back down to the scene with Mr McNally.
The trial before Judge Patrick Quinn heard that the deceased, who was wearing dark clothing, was intoxicated and had taken a wrong turn from where he was staying in Laragh after being out socialising earlier that night.