Northern Ireland

Phelim Brady: Son cleared of causing father's death

Phelim Brady died in a crash on the A4 road near Dungannon on 25 June 2014
Image caption Phelim Brady died in a crash on the A4 road near Dungannon on 25 June 2014

A man has been cleared of causing his father's death in a road collision, following a retrial.

Paul Alexander Brady, 47, of Minterburn Road, Caledon, County Tyrone, denied the charge.

But he accepted being a disqualified driver with no insurance on 25 June 2014, the day of the incident.

His father, Phelim, 69, was standing on the draw-bar between a tractor and trailer driven by his son, when they were "slammed" from behind by a lorry.

Mr Brady Snr landed on the road and died instantly.

The case began last week but could not be reported for legal reasons until its conclusion.

The lorry was being driven by William Mark Murphy, 53, of Prospect Road, Castlewellan, County Down.

Murphy later stood trial for causing death by dangerous driving but was convicted of the lesser charge of death by careless driving.

'Thrown from tractor'

He was given a sentence of four months suspended for three years and disqualified from driving for three years.

Mr Brady was also thrown from the tractor cabin during the collision, which happened as they emerged from a dual carriageway near Dungannon. He sustained serious injuries.

He would later be charged with causing his father's death by dangerous driving and stood trial along with Mr Murphy.

But the jury was unable to reach a verdict in respect of Mr Brady.

A retrial commenced last week in which he accepted driving whilst disqualified and without insurance but denied any role in causing his father's death.

"This is a particularly tragic case which causes emotions to well-up. But the question of sympathy is not an issue and that would be the wrong approach," the prosecution barrister told the jury.

"The defendant, by allowing his father to ride on the draw-bar, in a manner which was dangerous, was a material cause of death.

"The tractor and trailer had driven 10 miles with his father in that position, which a careful and considerate driver would not have done on a dual carriageway or any road.

"The deceased was in a vulnerable, dangerous position," he added.

He highlighted there was no dispute Mr Brady Snr's death was caused by Mr Murphy's driving.

However, it was argued Mr Brady's actions were "a substantial contributing factor" in his father's death.

The defence placed blame firmly on Mr Murphy, who was described as "the sole cause of the collision".

Mr Brady's barrister explained on the day in question Mr Brady was asked by his father to take him and five cattle to the market, even though he was subject to a driving disqualification.

"The defendant reminded his father of the disqualification, but as he told police, he was persuaded to drive. His father had no help that day and he didn't want to let him down by refusing," he said.

"His father said: 'It will be alright this one time'. He stood on the draw-bar. It was something he did all his life.

"Whether or not it is advisable, it is something farmers do.

"It is not the best thing to do but it's hardly the crime of the century. Nor was it the crime of the century for the defendant to give in to his father and drive him to the market.

"A 35-tonne lorry, laden with cattle, quite literally slammed into the back of the tractor and trailer. Mr Murphy told the court he braked.

"The expert engineer said if he did indeed brake it was for less than a second. The witness travelling behind saw no brake lights."

He pointed out how the lorry pushed the tractor and trailer sideways, uphill along the road for some 70 yards. But the lorry itself still did not stop after this and continued on before coming to rest 120 yards after the initial impact.

"The driving of the lorry was simply quite horrendous. It caused the death of Mr Brady Snr and the injuries to my client who was thrown from the tractor. Five cattle in the trailer also perished,"

'Victim twice over'

Concluding, defence counsel said: "Responsibility for the collision and death - and the sole cause - was the atrocious driving of the lorry driver.

"The man in the dock was in no way, shape or form the cause of the collision. He is not the culprit. He's a victim, and he's a victim twice over.

"Once by losing his father, and twice with the circumstances of this trial in which he is accused of causing or being a substantial contribution in his father's death."

After the jury returned with a finding of not guilty, Mr Brady turned to relatives seated in the public gallery, some of whom broke down in tears with relief.

He is to be sentenced at a later date.

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