Judge directs jury find Cork man not guilty of impeding prosecution of his son for dangerous driving causing death of Kerry man

A 72 year old man’s walked free from court after a judge directed a jury to find him not guilty of acting to impede the apprehension or prosecution of his son for dangerous driving causing the death of a father of four in a hit and run in East Kerry.

Dan Joe Fitzgerald of Knockeen, Knockduff, Meelin, Co Cork was acquitted on the direction of Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin on the third day of his trial at Cork Circuit Criminal Court on a sole charge relating to the garda investigation into the death of Paud O’Leary from Gneeveguilla.

Mr Fitzgerald had denied a charge that between July 1st and July 13th 2012 he did an act or acts, within or without the state,  with the intention of impeding the apprehension or prosecution of his son, Shane,  for dangerous driving causing the death of Mr O’Leary.

The judge held there was insufficient evidence to show that Mr Fitzgerald Snr had acted to impede the apprehension or prosecution of his son.

42 year old Paud O’Leary was fatally injured when he was struck while out cycling near his home on July 1st 2012 and on March 20th 2015, Shane Fitzgerald was convicted at Tralee Circuit Criminal Court and jailed for five years for dangerous driving causing his death.

Judge Ó Donnabháin heard legal submissions by Mr Fitzgerald’s barrister, Ray Boland and prosecution barrister, Siobhan Lankford, in the jury’s absence, on whether the case should be allowed go to the jury for deliberation.

The state’s case revolved around the use of Mr Fitzgerald senior’s AIB Laser Debit card by someone to book a ferry passage to the UK on July 2nd, 2012 to pay for a visa application and various travel documents for him to Australia on July 3rd, and a flight to Australia on July 12th, all for Shane Fitzgerald.

But the judge said the state had failed to show that Mr Fitzgerald Senior was aware on July 2nd and July 3rd that gardai were looking for his son as a person of interest in the case and therefore could not prove the first two debit card transactions were done to impede his son’s apprehension.

Dan Joe Fitzgerald only became aware on July 6th that gardai wanted to speak to his son in relation to the fatal hit and run. The state hadn’t produced any evidence to prove that Mr Fitzgerald Senior had any knowledge that his credit card was used on July 12th to buy the ticket to Australia.

The state was relying on inferences which they were asking the jury to draw from the fact that Mr Fitzgerald Senior refused to explain how his debit card was used on this and the other two transactions when he was arrested and questioned about the matter on July 30th 2015.