A UK national who brought his girlfriend’s grandmother to Ireland on the holiday of a lifetime has been charged with dangerous driving causing death following a road traffic accident in Clifden on Saturday.
James Hardy, of 172 Wright Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, was driving at Blanch Field Park, Clifden, Co Kilkenny, when a collision occurred on Saturday at 4.50pm. His girlfriend and her grandmother, who is 94, were passengers in the car.
A motorcyclist involved in the collision died of his injuries.
Gardaí initially objected to bail being granted to Mr Hardy. Following a hearing Judge Geraldine Carthy granted bail on conditions, including that the defendant sign a bond for €50,000 and make a cash lodgement of €35,000.
Garda Joseph Reville gave evidence of arresting Mr Hardy on Sunday, at 11.26pm, at St Luke’s General Hospital in Kilkenny. He was taken to Kilkenny Garda Station where he was cautioned and charged. His reply when charged was ‘no comment.’
Garda Reville said garda objections to bail included the seriousness of the charge and a concern the defendant will not return to face trial.
The garda said Mr Hardy was driving a black Skoda Fabia on the R712 when he was in collision with a Kawasaki motorcycle. The driver of the motorcycle sustained “catastrophic injuries” and died at the scene.
Garda Reville said he had collected numerous witness statements and the case will include a forensic scene examination report, allegations of excess speed and overtaking on the incorrect side of the road.
The court heard Mr Hardy is living in Canada and is a UK citizen with no ties to Ireland. There is an extradition treaty between Ireland and Canada.
Sean Rafter BL, for Mr Hardy, said his client is a lawyer in Toronto and handed in letters of reference from his client’s employer and from a retired former judge. Mr Hardy’s employer said if he does not return to Ireland for trial he could lose his position with the law firm and his licence to practice law in Canada as the Law Society of Ontario could conclude he is not of good character. This was accepted by the garda.
Mr Rafter said his client had studied in the UK and spent some time lecturing at an American university before returning to the UK where he completed his articles to work as a lawyer in Canada and secured residency. He has lived there since 2017 and owns a home with his girlfriend.
Mr Hardy learned to drive in the UK and does not maintain a car in Canada, the barrister said. He holds a Canadian driving licence as is the law in Ontario but drives very little there.
Mr Rafter said his client earns a good salary in his job and his parents were also prepared to stand surety for him.
Mr Hardy has very strong ties to the UK, where his parents and brothers live. He travels regularly to visit them.
Mr Rafter said Mr Hardy was travelling with his girlfriend and her 94 year-old grandmother. It was the older lady’s lifelong ambition to visit Ireland, having lived all her life in America.
When interviewed by gardaí Mr Hardy said he was not tired, not intoxicated and not distracted at the time of the collision. He was not on his phone.
Garda Reville confirmed he had done a cursory inspection of Mr Hardy’s phone, which had been voluntarily surrendered to gardaí, and he was not using it at the time.
The garda confirmed a roadside breath test had shown Mr Hardy was not intoxicated.
Mr Rafter said his client was travelling from Kilkenny to Paulstown. There was a car stationary on the road, waiting to turn right.
Gard Reville said behind that car was a jeep.
Coming towards them, on the other side of the road, was ‘a cavalcade of motorcycles,’ Mr Rafter said. It was a charity event.
The court heard Garda Reville has taken 10-12 statements and will take a ‘significant’ amount more, given the number of witnesses.
A preliminary PSV report indicated that the victim was travelling at 68kph at the time of the impact, Mr Rafter said. Garda Reville said it was a minimum of 68kph and Mr Hardy’s vehicle was travelling slower than that.
The speed limit on the road is 100kph.
Mr Hardy has been in detention for three nights.
The court heard the DPP has indicated the case can go forward on a signed plea. A Book of Evidence must be prepared. Time will also be needed for the preparation of Forensic Collision Ireland and PSV reports. It will be some time before the case will be heard.
Mr Rafter said his client would not be able to work if he was remanded in custody and is not entitled to legal aid. He would also lose his residency in Ontario if he was absent from the state for a certain period of time.
The harmful effects to Mr Hardy if he did not deal with this in a professional manner would be as bad as being in custody, Mr Rafter said.
Garda Reville agreed that Mr Hardy ‘stands to lose a lot if he does not answer bail.’
The barrister said his client was willing to agree to bail conditions.
In court Mr Hardy said what happened was tragic and he extended his condolences to the family of the deceased man.
He reiterated his belief his licence to practice law would be revoked if he did not answer his bail. He said he would do whatever it takes to return to court.
He said he was in the UK for a wedding and took the opportunity to bring his girlfriend’s grandmother to Ireland. They took her to visit cathedrals in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Kilkenny.
Mr Hardy said it took him a long time to get his residency in Ontario and he was not going to do anything to jeopardise that. His family and friends live in the UK and he visits there three times a year. He said he would do nothing to put that ability in jeopardy.
Judge Geraldine Carthy also offered her condolences to the family of the deceased man.
She said it was accepted Mr Hardy had a lot to lose by not answering his bail and that he was entitled to the presumption of innocence until conviction.
She granted bail on Mr Hardy’s own bond of €50,000 with a cash lodgement of €30,000 and an independent surety of €50,000.
Mr Hardy was also ordered to provide a phone number to gardaí within 24 hours and be contactable at all times; he is to have no contact with the family of the deceased man; he is to reside at his address in Toronto and inform gardaí of any changes.
He was remanded in custody with consent to bail to Tuesday, June 14.
In court Mr Hardy’s father was approved as the independent surety.
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