Construction worker gets suspended sentence after careless driving kills man
A construction worker whose reckless driving caused the death of a man he hadn’t noticed lying in the road has been given a suspended sentence.
Witnesses described waving at Mohamid Benchouat (25) as he approached the scene in the early hours of the morning, but said his car drove past them and ran over the man on the road.
The court heard that Benchouat left the scene of the accident, but cooperated when gardaí found his car.
Benchouat, of Rolestown Cottages, Rolestown, Swords, pleaded guilty in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to driving without care and attention resulting in the death of Mr Ilmars Zorge on the R125 in Swords on June 24, 2018. He has already was convicted of three traffic offences. .
Judge Melanie Greally said the defendant did not proceed with a sufficient degree of caution to allow him to see the victim. His second flaw is that he left the scene after realizing he had probably hit a person.
She noted that in addition to the emotional distress felt by Mr Zorge’s family, they were also exposed to expenses that they were ill-equipped to meet at the time.
She said the defendant’s previous conviction for driving without insurance was significant. She noted a number of mitigating factors, including the significant remorse and guilt felt by Benchouat.
She said a number of character references spoke extremely well of him and said he came from a respectable family and had an employment background, working on construction sites.
She suspended a 12-month prison sentence on the condition that he maintain public order during this period and hand over a sum of €2,000 he had brought to court to be passed on to the victim’s family.
Garda Conor Tumbleton told prosecuting Elva Duffy BL that the deceased man, a 33-year-old Latvian national, had been drinking with colleagues at his workplace where he was a fruit picker celebrating Latvia’s National Day.
Garda has reconstructed his movements through CCTV and believes a large amount of alcohol was consumed before the man began walking home alone along poorly lit roads in the early morning with a bottle of alcohol.
Other motorists saw the man on the road, swerving while walking. He was described as very drunk and unsteady on his feet. Witnesses described the situation as dangerous.
Another witness described seeing an object on the road ahead of him, which he thought was a black bin bag but as he approached discovered it was a man lying face down on the ground horizontally across the road. Motorists pulled over to warn other road users so that the man was not injured.
Drivers stopped at the scene flashed lights to warn others to slow down while another waved his hands to signal others to slow down and not continue. This witness frantically waved at an approaching car, but it drove past him and the man on the road, before moving 80 meters.
This car, driven by Benchouat, who was returning home after socializing in Swords, then stopped.
A taxi driver begged Benchouat to come back and help him. The driver of the car appeared to consider his options before driving off with a loud skid, the court heard.
Gardaí did a tremendous job of identifying the car and reconstructing the CCTV and identified the Benchouat as a suspect. After his arrest, Benchouat was very cooperative and told Gardaí that he had run over something, panicked and left the scene.
Mr Zorge was removed from the scene after suffering a major crush with a series of injuries to the lower part of his body causing his death. The court heard that Mr Zorge had no family in Ireland but was the main breadwinner for his family back home.
The garda agreed with defending Dean Kelly SC that his client had been located by the gardaí the following day, and he had expressed great remorse. The garda agreed that the area was not well lit but not completely dark and the state’s case was that Benchouat should have seen the man.
The court heard there was no evidence of extreme speed and the defendant failed to proceed with sufficient caution after seeing two cars with hazard or flashing lights indicating there had been an incident any.
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Mr Kelly said there were no ‘aggravating hot plate factors’ in the case, such as race, alcohol or drugs. He said his failure to stay at the scene was an aggravating factor but did not lead to the man’s death or prolong his suffering.
He said his client’s family were in court supporting him and maintained that he was a regular, honest and hardworking person who suffered a great deal of guilt. He said Benchouat was troubled and haunted by the death of an innocent.
Mr. Kelly handed over a number of letters and references which he says paint a picture of a kind, generous and helpful person. He said his client had a good work history.
He asked the court to consider his guilty plea and his full cooperation. He argued that the case fell into a category that barely encroached on criminality, where the level of recklessness was very low and the consequences of the act or omission were very significant.