‘Careless driving’ of garda caused death of woman (75)

By Declan Brennan and Fiona Ferguson

A garda, whose careless driving caused the death of a 75-year-old pedestrian, has paid a €2,000 fine and paid €5,000 to charity, as directed by a judge at an earlier sentence hearing.

Warren Farrell (33), a garda serving in Ballyfermot, was driving a marked patrol car in response to an incident at a Topaz garage when his vehicle struck Elizabeth Core.

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Garda Farrell had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of Mrs Core at Fonthill Road South, Dublin, on August 28, 2014.

After a trial last December, a jury convicted Garda Farrell by majority verdict on an alternative charge of careless driving causing death. Judge Cormac Quinn had advised the jurors they could convict on this alternative charge.

At a sentence hearing in March, Judge Quinn had ordered Garda Farrell to pay €5,000 over to the Irish Road Victims’ Association and pay a €2,000 fine in the following four months.

He had set a proposed prison sentence of nine months if these conditions were not met, which he deferred under Section 100 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 to last Monday, July 22.

Judge Quinn confirmed Garda Farrell had met these conditions and he would not be imposing the prison sentence.

In December 2018, the trial heard that after seeing Mrs Core crossing from the far side of the road Garda Farrell failed to slow the car. He later told investigators that he believed Mrs Core would see or hear the patrol car and stop crossing and return to her side of the road.

He said he was surprised that she continued to cross the road and immediately applied brakes and entered the bus lane to avoid hitting her.

Garda Farrell said he attempted to mount the car onto the footpath on his left but was unable to do so and the left tyre burst. The front right of the car hit Mrs Core and she was pushed onto the front windscreen.

Forensic investigators put the car’s speed at the point of impact, following heavy braking, at between 50 and 56 kmh. The speed limit on the road was 50 kmh.

At the sentence hearing last March, Judge Quinn said there was a tension between the duty imposed on gardai to respond to calls as quickly as possible and the duty not to endanger the public.

He said there was evidence that Garda Farrell experienced a “violation of expectancy” where he had expected Mrs Core to stop crossing.

When he saw she continued to cross he reassessed the situation and applied the brakes. Judge Quinn noted that as a result of this, up to 2.5 seconds in stopping time were lost.

The judge said the degree of Farrell’s culpability was in the lower range. He said the aggravating factor was his speed.

Thomas Core, Mrs Core’s son, described his mother as a “singer and a dancer” and the “life and soul of family gatherings”.

Reading from his victim-impact statement, he said his mother had been fit and healthy for her age and had many more years of her life left. He said his father’s health deteriorated after his mother’s death and he had passed away “almost two years to the day she died”.

Judge Quinn extended the court’s sympathy to the Core family. He said that while the consequences of the “bad driving” must be taken into consideration, they had not been the determinative factor.

At a hearing in February, Detective Superintendent Colm O’Malley offered “sincere condolences” to the Core family for their tragic loss on behalf of Garda Farrell and An Garda Síochána.

He agreed with defence counsel Patrick McGrath SC that Garda Farrell had always wished to extend his condolences personally, but that it would not have been appropriate while the court case was ongoing.

James Butler, an investigator with the Garda Síochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), told the court that Garda Farrell told GSOC investigators that he had been satisfied before collision that his car’s blue flashing lights and sirens would have alerted Mrs Core and she would have remained on her side of the road.

Mr Butler told James Dwyer SC, prosecuting, that Garda Farrell said he continued driving at the same speed as a result.

Some civilian witnesses during the trial testified that the siren or blue lights were not on when they saw the car before the collision.

Mr Butler said the Director of Public Prosecutions had rejected an offer of a guilty plea on careless driving causing death and the matter went to trial.

He agreed with Mr McGrath that Garda Farrell had taken evasive action before the collision, but that his vehicle’s tyre had burst and he had been unable to mount a footpath to avoid impact.

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