herald

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Fatal crash driver was back on road despite brain injury

A DRIVER who was involved in a crash which took the life of a teenage girl was allowed on the road despite having suffered a major brain injury in another crash earlier that year, a court has heard.

Robert Harrison (23) was in a coma for two months after a crash in January 2009 and was left with a significant mental impairment.

He was back on the road by November of that year when he was involved in the crash in Cavan which killed 19-year-old Nicola Roberts, who had been a passenger in his car.

Yesterday at Cavan Circuit Criminal Court, sitting in Dublin, Judge Pauline Codd said that it was "extraordinary" that Mr Harrison was on the road with such an injury and that it was a cause of concern to the court that he was allowed behind the wheel.

Amazed

An expert doctor who recently examined Mr Harrison said that he felt he was not "neurologically capable of driving a car".

Another examining doctor wrote in a report that he was amazed that the man was allowed back on the road after the January crash.

Mr Harrison, of Shantonagh in Monaghan was charged with dangerous driving causing the death of Ms Roberts in a crash at Drung in Cootehill, Co Cavan on November 11, 2009.

The case was in court yesterday for a "fitness to plead" hearing to decide if Mr Harrison is capable of standing trial. His defence team submitted that his brain injury is so severe that he cannot properly follow the evidence or instruct counsel.

The Director of Public Prosecutions acknowledged he had certain problems with his memory but said that these could be accommodated during a trial.

Judge Codd sided with the defence and ruled that Mr Harrison's impairment meant he could not follow the evidence properly and that the court would be unable to remedy this by adapting the trial procedure.

Sympathies

She ruled that Mr Harrison is not fit to stand trial and offered her sympathies to Mr Roberts' family.

During their submissions, the defence called neurological expert, Dr Alan Byrne, who interviewed Mr Harrison and found that he acted childishly and couldn't remember key details about the crash, including the name of the victim.

Dr Stephen Monks, a forensic psychologist, gave evidence for the prosecution.

He claimed that tests performed in March 2010 showed that Mr Harrison's executive brain function was average.

He said his global intelligence is in the normal range but that he has memory problems.

hnews@herald.ie

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