Court rules evidence did not prove driving causing death case beyond reasonable doubt

Acting Chief Justice Cato has acquitted a man charged with reckless driving causing death.

Ngana Tatafu  Folau ‘Alovili wa charged following an incident in late 2017.

The Supreme Court was told that on September 23 that year ‘Alovili was driving a car which hit and killed ‘Onesi Lino.

Police said ‘Alovili was speeding on Taufa’ahau road at Ha’ateiho and not paying proper care and attention.

Witnesses said ‘Alovili was speeding and there was no other car on the road at the time.

One witness said he saw the deceased get out of a vehicle in which he was a passenger and cross the road. He said it was about five seconds between getting out of the car and when he was hit.

Another witness said the area was brightly lit. He said he saw car approaching and because of the way it was moving he felt cared and ran out of it way. The witness admitted to drinking kava but denied being affected by it.

Another witness said he had been drinking vodka with Lino earlier in the evening and had dropped him off so he could continue drinking with some other friends who were going to pick him up.

After assessing the evidence, Acting Chief Justice Cato said he thought it probable that Lino had crossed the road and walked into the path of ‘Alovili’s vehicle.

He said he accepted that it was possible that ‘Alovili’s vision of Lino crossing the road had been blocked by a vehicle passing in an easterly direction shortly before the impact.

“The fact that there was no evidence of skid marks suggests to me also that the accused had no opportunity to take any evasive action and this suggests  to me that the deceased probably walked out into the  path  of the accused’s car without pausing to look,” the judge said.

He said the witnesses who suggested there was no passing car were being asked to reconstruct events that arose suddenly and it was highly unlikely they would be able to give a reliable account on whether a vehicle had passed by, when their attention would not have been focused on this.

“Because  I  am left in  a state of doubt on this point, the Crown has failed to convince me that the impact was anything more than a tragic accident as the deceased crossed the road,” the judge said.

“I cannot find beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused in these circumstances materially caused the impact. As such, the accused is not responsible for the deceased’s  tragic death and he is acquitted of the charge of  reckless driving  causing death.”

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