The driver whose car smashed into a seven-year-old boy who was standing on a bridge, pinning his body to a gate
has been jailed for 54 months.
Jermaine Carroll, a 28-year-old maintenance worker attached to Church’s Fast Food Outlet, and of Stevedore Housing Scheme, Georgetown, was found guilty and sentenced by Magistrate Judy Latchman on a cause of death by dangerous driving charge.
The verdict was returned on Wednesday before a packed courtroom of the child’s relatives, as well as Carroll’s family and supporters.
The Magistrate, before delivering her decision, affirmed that in the light of the alarming number of road fatalities thus far this year, there is a dire need for a clear message directed at the preservation of Guyana’s human resources to be sent, by the courts, to other drivers.
Carroll was behind the wheel of motor car PPP 5831 which killed Joseph Quallis, a pupil of St. Pius Primary, on June 12, last, on Freeman Street, East La Penitence.
He had pleaded not guilty before Chief Magistrate Priya Sewnarine-Beharry and after making three applications, he was released on $400,000 conditional bail. The case was later sent to Magistrate Latchman for trial.
Called to lead his defence, Carroll, standing in the prisoner’s docks, said that he was heading west along Freeman Street and “there was a car that shade me from seeing where I was going”.
“I wasn’t going at a fast rate…there was a little child. I lost control. I turn through and run off the road,” the driver said. He said he was sorry for what happened and refrained from calling anyone to support his claims.
His attorney, Adrian Thompson in a no case submission, told the court that the Prosecution had failed to prove that his client drove dangerously and that Quallis died as a result.
The lawyer contended that Carroll was blocked by another vehicle and he had to find a way to avoid the car. Thompson said that it was unfortunate that a child died, but “that’s why it’s called an accident.”
He said the Police had not conducted a thorough investigation and that his client could not have been speeding, owing to the potholes on the road, which would normally prevent speeding.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Prosecutor, Sergeant Vishnu Hunt, in response, informed the court that a prima facie case was made out. Hunt insisted that the child’s death was a result of Carroll’s negligence and that he had not taken enough due care and attention.
“The defendant failed to exercise the five C’s of driving – care, caution, common sense, courtesy and consideration,” he said. Hunt added that Carroll had failed to take heed despite the potholes.
Ruling, Magistrate Latchman said that the 7-year-old was on his way to a shop “however he never made it as he lost his life in a most horrible manner.”
In an extremely tense courtroom, she related that Quallis was merely standing on a bridge when he was killed by a speeding car. She said the child’s head was between a steel gate and the remainder of his body was between the car’s bonnet and the concrete.
She related that the Prosecution, charged with proving that the child had died because Carroll had driven dangerously, had brought seven witnesses – Florence Simon, Lance Corporal Johnson, Andre Quallis, Rohan Baksh, Devon Richards, Shelly Ann Hudson and Corporal Christopher Dharamraj – to testify.
The Magistrate narrated the father’s last moments with his son. She said that the child came home around 15:10h and asked his father for something. They left and he later saw a black Spacio driving towards them.
“Quallis said that his son was hit while standing on a bridge and that there was no other car on the road.” She added that under cross examination, the court heard that the black car was driving fast and playing music loudly.
The court also heard the tale of Richards who heard the shout of “accident!” and saw Carroll exit the mangled car. The car, the witness said, had slammed into the fence and gate, pinning the child there.
The car, according to several witnesses’ testimony, was badly damaged; the airbags had deployed and the vehicle was in no state to be driven.
The results of the post mortem examination, which were read, had left those in the gallery with looks of disbelief and horror. Dr. Nehaul Singh, the Magistrate read, had reported that the child suffered multiple fractures to his skull and other parts of his body, contusions, severe blunt trauma and extensive hemorrhaging.
Magistrate Latchman ruled that the defence the accused lead was “shady with many versions.”
The court, she indicated, had considered whether Carroll had drove dangerously and exhibited the care, skill and competence of an experienced driver.
She noted the absence of skid marks, but clarified that that does not mean that he was not driving fast. She said that the element of speed was supported by the damage done to the fence and the “compilation of twisted metal” the vehicle had become.
The Magistrate ruled that the five C’s were completely ignored by Carroll that day and proclaimed that “You drove at an extraordinary rate of speed; a manner dangerous to the public.”
The court believed that the child was rushed to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and had died as a result of the injuries sustained. Having regarded the evidence, she found Carroll guilty as charged.
During mitigation, it was revealed that Carroll was a first-time offender. His attorney in light of the ruling, said the defendant’s family wanted to compensate the family and the father agreed.
Magistrate Latchman retorted that she will take that into account, but said that it does not change the fact that a life was lost and that Carroll will be sent to prison.
Thompson sought to have a suspended sentence due to the compensation and said that Carroll is the father of a 3-year-old.
The court was adjourned for a few minutes and the transaction was made. The lawyer later reported that part compensation was paid to the child’s father and that they will pay the “balance” later.
Sentencing Quallis, Magistrate Latchman said that she noted that part of the money was paid, his age, and that he has a child.
The court emphasised, however, that a life had been lost and referred to the recently released police statistics of traffic deaths which showed a 30% increase. She said that between January and September this year, 100 persons lost their lives and pedestrians have been the main road users affected, with 42 such persons.
“This being road safety month, the court needs to send a strong message to road users. I’ve considered that a life has been lost to which speed was a factor. There is a need to preserve our human resources.”
Carroll was then sentenced. He was also fined $50,000 last week after pleading guilty to driving the same car while it was uninsured.
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