Motorist who ran over man crossing busy road, cleared of involuntary homicide

Salvatore Grima, 73, died in hospital shortly after being struck by a car, whilst crossing Mdina road in 2009

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

A 42-year-old motorist has been cleared of the involuntary homicide of an elderly man, who died after being run over whilst crossing Mdina road in 2009.

Salvatore Grima, 73, died in hospital shortly after being struck by a Fiat Punto driven by Robert Micallef. Grima had been crossing the busy thoroughfare to get to his car, having bought a bag of date fritters (imqaret) from a roadside stall on 27 November 2009 at around 11am.

Paramedics had found the victim, face down in a pool of blood, but still alive. He was rushed to hospital, but later succumbed to his extensive injuries. Emergency physician Dr. Jonathan Joslin, who had treated the victim at the emergency department, testified that Grima had suffered fractures and extensive internal injuries, notably tears to his aorta and heart.

Micallef’s windscreen was completely shattered by the impact. He told police at the scene that the victim’s crossing had been hidden from view by a truck travelling in the opposite direction. Suddenly finding the victim in his path, Micallef had braked but was unable to avoid the impact.

Police had also spoken to a passenger in the victim’s car, who told them that they had decided to stop and buy some imqaret from a vendor who had set up his stall on the other side of the road. Grima had stopped his car at the side of the road and needed to cross to the other side.

The passenger said he then heard tyres screeching and saw his friend on the ground.

An expert appointed by the magisterial inquiry into the fatal incident had told the court that the imqaret vendor, who had no permit to set up there, had previously been warned that he was creating a serious hazard. In the absence of a zebra crossing in the area, the victim would have had to drive up to the Saqqajja roundabout and back down in order to avoid crossing the arterial road.

The speed limit on that particular road was 80 km/hr.  Tyre marks indicating heavy braking stretched back 40 metres from the point of impact. The court expert had said in his report that the car had been travelling at 90 km/hr before braking and hitting with the victim at 65km/hr, but under cross-examination and after being presented with the length of the skid marks, on the witness stand the expert testified that the initial speed was closer to 74 km/hr.

This discrepancy, together with a lack of eyewitnesses, made it difficult for the prosecution to prove its case, said the magistrate.

The court observed that there was also an element of contributory negligence on the part of the victim which emerged from the acts of the inquiry.

Micallef’s lawyer had also raised a plea of prescription, arguing that the accused had been charged in 2015 over an incident which occurred in 2009. He pointed out that the offences with which he was accused, had a prescriptive period of 5 years, which rendered the charges time-barred.

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit, having taken all this into account, declared the accused not guilty and discharged him.

Inspector Luke Bonello prosecuted.

Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi was defence counsel.