A driver convicted of involuntary homicide after he hit and killed an elderly lady crossing the road 10 years ago has been cleared on appeal.
Wayne Grima, 35, had landed a suspended sentence and a one-year driving ban following his conviction over that February 2010 incident which cost a 73-year-old woman her life.
On that afternoon, Grima had been driving his Piaggio Porter at an estimated speed of 60km/hour along Zabbar Road in Paola when he suddenly spotted “something grey” collide with his vehicle.
His first impression had been that someone had flung a cat against the moving vehicle, the driver said in court. He said that he could not recall whether he had hit the brakes before impact.
As the reality of what happened dawned upon him, the driver lost consciousness.
Grima had been convicted by a court but then filed an appeal. His lawyers argued that somewhat differing versions supplied by eyewitnesses had been discarded by the magistrates’ court.
When delivering judgment the Court of Criminal Appeal, presided over by Mr Justice Giovanni Grixti, observed that the first court had relied upon the conclusions of a traffic expert who had stressed that the accident occurred close to a school.
Why did the expert have to stress that, when the accident happened after school hours, at 5:10pm?, the court asked.
The expert had concluded that the driver’s vehicle had left brake marks 21.35 metres long.
Yet when compared to another court expert’s report and the accused’s own version, certain inconsistencies emerged, the Court said.
It noted that the measurements had been based on two sets of brake marks, one of which did not seem to match the tyres of the accused’s vehicle.
Moreover, the two sets of marks were not along the same trajectory.
The expert had certified a defective braking system of which the driver might not have been aware, since the vehicle had passed its roadworthiness test two months before the accident.
The expert’s report was to be assessed in the light of other evidence, including the versions of eyewitnesses and the accused himself, said Mr Justice Grixti, pointing out that those versions had not been “so divergent as not to merit consideration.”
There was evidence showing that that the elderly victim had stepped out from behind a stationary bus, onto the busy thoroughfare, head bent low without keeping a lookout for oncoming traffic.
When all was considered, the dangerous and reckless driving of the appellant had not been proved, said the Court, thus upholding the appeal and pronouncing an acquittal.
Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri were defence counsel.
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