Motorist acquitted of dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm

by Gazette Reporter

A marketing manager who knocked down a pensioner as he crossed the road from between parked cars has been acquitted of a charge of dangerous driving.

Paul Nugent (58) was driving down Harbour Road in Howth just after midday on January 8, 2018 when his car struck Thomas Clinton as he emerged on to the road from between parked cars.

Mr Clinton, then aged 80, hit the ground and lost consciousness. He suffered life threatening injuries, including head injuries and a broken leg bone.

He was kept in intensive care for several weeks and is likely to need long term care, the trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard this week.

Mr Nugent of Leinster Road West, Rathmines, Dublin had just left a business meeting in a nearby coffee shop and was driving back into town when his car hit Mr Clinton.

He had pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm to Mr Clinton.

After a little under two hours of deliberations the jury of nine women and three men returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty. Judge Karen O’Connor thanked jurors for carrying out their civic duty particularly in “these difficult times” and told jurors “you should be proud of yourselves”.

The State’s case was that Mr Clinton had stepped out on to the road and was visible to the accused 2.88 seconds before collision.

Derek Cooney BL, prosecuting, told the jury this was sufficient time on a straight road of just over 47m for anyone to react to the hazard. The driver applied the brakes 0.24 seconds before collision.

“He has to travel past four vehicles before he applies the brakes and you’re telling me he cannot see Mr Clinton in the middle of the road,” Mr Cooney said. He told jurors that drivers “have to expect the unexpected”.

Defence barrister Martin Dully BL told the jury that the State’s sole allegation was that his client failed to react in sufficient time but, he said, the State had overestimated the time available to him to see Mr Clinton.

He said that at the time the garda report had Mr Clinton visible on the road, CCTV stills show him blocking the right portion of a parked car, according to a report carried out by an engineer for the defence.

“This undermines the central contention of the prosecution about how much time is available to Mr Nugent before he reacts,” counsel said. He said the  prosecution calculations are “fundamentally flawed”.

Mr Dully said the defence expert’s report sets out that Mr Clinton was visible for at most 2.3 seconds before collision.  This gives a reaction time of at most 2.08 seconds “less than a tenth of second above what might be considered to be in the acceptable range”, counsel said.

“When this was put to Garda John Culleton, the sole prosecution expert witness, he accepted unequivocally that Mr Nugent’s reaction times were in the acceptable norm of which might be expected of any motorist,” he said.

He said the case was a tragedy involving two decent hard-working people going about their daily business. He said his client understands and sympathises with the devastating injuries suffered by Mr Clinton but that this was an accident in which nobody was at fault.

He said the accused has over 30 years of driving experience, has no previous convictions and considers himself to be a careful driver. The court heard that the defendant was not speeding, his mobile phone was checked to see if he was using it prior to the collision, and he was breathalysed.

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