Updated | Owen Bonnici not guilty of negligent driving in April traffic accident
Magistrate Claire Stafrace acquitted Bonnici after the prosecution failed to prove that the minister was driving in a dangerous manner.
3 October 2014, 11:13am
Justice Minister, Owen Bonnici acquitted of negligent driving. Video Ray Attard
The incident occurred on 3 April outside the St Venera tunnels at around 8:30pm. The court heard that upon driving out of the tunnels, Bonnici’s Hyundai I20 crashed into a stationary car, which was parked near the pavement.
As a result of the crash, one of the victims, Alies Abdul Hadi, was “thrown into the air and landed almost one-and-a-half metres from his car.”
The victim’s Daewoo Matiz and his brother’s van were displaced as a result of the crash, with the latter ending up on the pavement after it crashed into the parked van.
Testifying, Alies Abdul Hadi told the court that at around 8:30pm, his car stopped just outside the St Venera tunnels and he subsequently phoned his brother for help. He arrived on the scene some 15 minutes later.
“My brother then arrived on the scene, and parked his van in front of me. We opened the bonnet, switched on the hazard lights, and tried to start the car,” he said.
“The last thing I remember is my brother telling me ‘Arem, Arem’ (look out), and a few moments later I was on the ground. I did not hear any brakes, it happened so fast,” Abdul Hadi said.
Seconding his brother's testimony, Josef Abdul Hadi told the court upon impact, he saw his brother go up in the air and landing around one and a half metres away from the car. The victim was then hospitalised.
Moreover, Abdul Hadi said that he did not hear any “screeching brakes,” – a claim echoed by Bonnici who insisted that “he was so surprised to see a car parked there, that he did not engage the brakes on the car.”
Testifying, Bonnici said that he “did not exceed the speeding limit as there was a speed camera,” but nevertheless argued that he was not driving slowly as it was a main road.
“I heard a thump. I almost fainted in the aftermath of the incident, especially when I saw the injured person on the ground,” he said.
Moreover, Bonnici claimed that the cars’ hazard lights and headlamps were not on.
In submissions, police inspector Robert Vella argued that even though it was an “unfortunate incident, there was nevertheless some negligence involved as it could have been avoided.” Moreover, the inspector said that Bonnici did not keep a proper look-out as required by law.
On its part, the defence argued that the charges had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt. Upholding this argument, Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit said that it was not proven that Bonnici was over-speeding, and also argued that the cars had been parked in a dangerous spot.
She consequently acquitted Bonnici of all the charges.
Lawyers Louie Bianci and Joe Buttigieg appeared for Owen Bonnici, while Lawyer Edward Debono, appearing in parte civile for the victims.
Daniel Mizzi reports from the law courts.