Careless driver gets 4.5 months

After pleading not guilty to causing death by dangerous or reckless driving, but guilty to careless driving, Ronald Edward Addinall was sentenced last week to four and a half months in prison.

The maximum sentence for careless driving is six months.

Cayman’s Traffic Law does not contain an offence of causing death by careless driving.

Justice Alexander Henderson heard the facts and mitigation on 22 June, then adjourned sentence until 27 June.

Senior Crown Counsel Gail Johnson told the court that the incident occurred around 1.30am on Saturday, 5 November 2005.

The victim was David Ian Ross, 26, a visitor to Grand Cayman who was walking along South Church Street toward Memorial Avenue.

The Crown alleged that Addinall was driving a pick-up truck along the same road heading in the same direction.

Approximately 75 feet from Memorial Avenue, the victim was close to the road’s edge and was struck from behind by the vehicle, which caused him first to roll backwards over the hood and strike the back of his head on the windscreen frame.

He then vaulted some 39 feet and struck the top of a block wall that was four feet high.

A passer-by who observed the victim lying on the side of the road stopped and called for assistance.

On arrival police observed debris from the vehicle, which had not stopped. They took the debris to Vampt Motors, where staff helped them identify the make of vehicle.

Police conducted interviews with several people.

When interviewed, Addinall admitted he was the only driver of the vehicle at the time of the incident. However he denied knowing he had hit anything until he saw the damage the next morning.

Mr. Ross died of multiple blunt force injuries.

The speed limit in the area is 30mph and a reconstruction showed the driver must have been doing a minimum of 40mph in order to send the victim airborne.

Ms Johnson said the roadway in that area is narrow and there is no sidewalk for pedestrians. When Addinall was questioned by police, he said at the time of the incident he was distracted, he was listening to music in the vehicle and had things on his mind.

Justice Henderson read from Addinall’s statement to police. The defendant said he dropped two people at the airport on Friday around 4.30pm and went to work from 5pm until around 9m. He worked on a sunset cruise vessel for tourists and there were several South Africans aboard; he is from South Africa.

He had about three shots of vodka on board, then went to a bar and had two beers. His friends were asking him about his divorce and he was not happy. He went to another bar, but did not drink there, then to a third bar where he had two more beers. He left about 1.15am

He was not aware of when or where the accident took place.

He asked if any calculation had been done of Addinall’s blood/alcohol level. Ms Johnson said the Crown had an expert and the Defence had an expert, but they did not agree, so any calculating would have been speculation.

There were no eye witnesses.

Defence Attorney Ben Tonner said a social inquiry report was not useful, since Addinall was about to be rolled over, his work permit expiring 6 July.

He told the court that an expert toxicologist had used times and quantities of drinking from Addinall’s interview and had concluded he was not substantially affected by alcohol and was under the legal limit.

His guilty plea was a sign or remorse and meant that Mr. Ross’ family did not have to live through the incident in a trial. He was apologising to the family by letter.

While recognising the tremendous sense of loss felt by the family of the victim, Mr. Tonner asked the court to consider the impact of the penalty on a man like Addinall, who was of good character; particularly if the penalty was custodial.

Justice Henderson asked if the Crown wanted him to take into account Addinall’s failure to stop at the scene. Ms Johnson said yes.

He asked if the Crown was going to ask the magistrate to impose consecutive sentences in the Summary Court charges. She said no.

He then said he would take the hit and run aspect of the incident into account.

In passing sentence he summarised the facts and said a first offence of careless driving would not ordinarily result in a prison sentence. But hit and run that results in serious injury or death almost always requires prison.

Addinall had a legal and moral obligation to stop and render what assistance he could, he said. Not remembering could have come from excessive alcohol or a wish to minimise his involvement. Earlier, he said it could be a coping mechanism.

With a maximum penalty for careless driving of six months, he had to give some discount for the guilty plea. He made that six weeks, for a total of four months two weeks and allowed credit for the 14 days Addinall had previously spent in custody.

He also disqualified him from driving for 12 months.

Later the same morning, Addinall appeared before Acting Magistrate Valdis Foldats. In that court, Ms Johnson explained what had happened in Grand Court.

She said she was not suggesting any consecutive sentence as the judge had taken into account the hit and run factor.

The magistrate said he was taking into account what he had been told and Addinall’s guilty pleas to leaving the scene of an accident and failure to report and accident. He imposed a term of one month for each offence, concurrent with the Grand Court sentence.

Mr. Tonner said Addinall would need to leave the island when he finishes his sentence.

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