A motorist who was involved in an accident that resulted in the death of a father-of-two almost five years ago has been cleared on appeal after a judge found that the victim’s own actions contributed to the fatality.

Jonathan Hili, 26, had been handed a suspended sentence and a six-month driving ban in December after being found guilty of having caused the death of the 40-year old man through reckless and dangerous driving.

The incident took place at daybreak one July morning back in 2016 when the victim had been walking along Marfa Road, Ghadira, with his 10-year old daughter, a short distance from the camping site where his family was staying.

The man ventured onto the road, beyond a white delineating line, to avoid overgrown trees along that particular stretch of road. Walking with his back to oncoming traffic he was hit by a Toyota Passo driven by Hili.

The young girl later recalled how one minute she had been holding her father’s hand and the next thing she knew was that a white car flashed past.

She then saw her father lying further ahead, blood seeping from his head.

Hili was subsequently prosecuted but was spared an effective jail term since the court found that the victim had contributed to the accident.

He got a suspended sentence since the tragedy might have been avoided had he kept a proper lookout, the Magistrates’ Court concluded.

That conviction was quashed on appeal on Tuesday.

Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera observed that evidence showed that the accused had indeed been driving “in a prudent manner,” on the left side of the road and at normal speed.

He was aware of the dense foliage on his left, but never expected the sudden appearance of the pedestrian in his path.

In fact, the victim had stepped down from the pavement and had not once turned round to check oncoming traffic, choosing to take “short cuts” to the camping site rather than walk ahead to a wider stretch of the road and the zebra crossing there.

Although drivers must use diligence and be aware of their surroundings, pedestrians have obligations too, the court said, adding that if a pedestrian placed himself in a position where he ought not be, a driver could not take the blame for the sudden emergency.

In this cases, the motorist had kept a proper lookout and did all he could to avoid the accident.

Indeed, had he not suddenly swerved to the right, he would also have hit the girl who was walking with her father.

An accident waiting to happen

That spot where the victim chose to walk was “very dangerous” and an investigator had remarked that an accident had long been waiting to happen.

In fact, two days after the fatality, the trees were pruned and pelican lights were installed, the court observed.

In light of such considerations, the court quashed the conviction and cleared the appellant of all criminal liability.

Finally, the court ordered notification of the judgment to the Transport Minister to ensure that such a frequented road is maintained “in a good state” by pruning roadside vegetation to avoid “other fatal accidents.”

Lawyers Jason Azzopardi, Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri assisted the appellant.

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