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Vehicle testing firm found guilty of breaching safety laws in the testing of a school bus that crashed

The Scene of the horrific bus crash near Clara, Co. Offaly which claimed the life of Michael White
The Scene of the horrific bus crash near Clara, Co. Offaly which claimed the life of Michael White

A vehicle testing firm found guilty of breaching health and safety laws in the testing of a school bus subsequently involved in a fatal crash is expected to appeal its conviction in the new year.

The bus went out of control near Clara, Co Offaly on April 4 2006. Schoolboy Michael White (15) died as a result of injuries he sustained in the crash.

O'Reilly Commercials Limited, of Ballinalack, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to four charges of breaching health and safety laws when carrying out an official test on the bus between August 5 and 6, 2005.

The charges, brought under the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989, had alleged that the firm failed to ensure that persons were not exposed to risks to their safety or health as a result of the way the test was carried out.

A Dublin Circuit Criminal Court jury deliberated for just under eight hours following a 23 day trial before returning a verdict of guilty on the first count which outlined a failure to note the modified rear suspension system.

The company was fined €25,000 by Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan on July 29 2013.

A Director of O'Reilly Commercials Limited, Mr John Deegan, asked for permission in the Court of Appeal today, to represent the company in its forthcoming appeal instead of a legal team.

The court heard during submissions that nobody other than a lawyer had ever been permitted to represent a company in civil or criminal proceedings in the Irish courts and that lgal aid was available subject to proper papers being filed.

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Seán Ryan said the court was satisfied on the basis of “clear authorities” that no special or unusual circumstances arose which would allow Mr Deegan to represent the company himself.

Mr Justice Ryan, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, listed the matter for October 23 next with a view to fixing a date for hearing.

He said the company was entitled to apply for legal aid in pursuing its appeal and the court would deal with such an application, if it was forthcoming, on that date subject to the proper papers being filed.

When asked why he wanted to represent the company himself, Mr Deegan agreed that he was unhappy with the outcome of the case and even more unhappy when he read the transcript of the trial.

Mr Deegan said matters were overlooked by both counsel in the case, there were exceptional circumstances for allowing him to represent the company and he had concerns about the justice system in this country.

If legal aid was not available to the company, Mr Deegan was told his position might have been stronger.