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Court hears postman, accused of causing death of woman by dangerous driving, told eye expert that he didn't drive

David Byrne (42) denies dangerous driving causing the death of 70-year-old Patricia Dunne in north Dublin on 16 October 2015.

SCC Rolling 5 Source: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

A KILDARE POSTMAN accused of dangerous driving causing the death of a pedestrian told an optometrist three years before the fatal collision that he did not drive, a court has heard.

David Byrne (42) denies dangerous driving causing the death of 70-year-old Patricia Dunne at Collins Avenue East, Killester in Dublin on 16 October 2015.

He has also pleaded not guilty to dishonestly inducing the National Driving Licence Service (NDLS) to issue him with a driving licence on 30 September 2014.

Byrne, of Kilcullen, Co Kildare, has further denied making a false or misleading statement while taking out insurance on 16 September 2015.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard previously that Dunne was walking home pulling a shopping trolley when a van slowed down to allow her to cross the road, but a car driven by Byrne hit her and she was flung up in the air. She died later in hospital.

Byrne was not speeding on the day in question, he had not been drinking and did not disobey any traffic signals.

On the fourth day of the trial, the court heard evidence from optometrist Aengus Morrin, who performed eye tests on Byrne in June 2012.

Morrin, who works for Specsavers in Newbridge, Co Kildare, observed that Byrne used his sense of touch to enter the room.

Morrin said Byrne told him that he had problems navigating at night and had been diagnosed with Usher Syndrome, which affects hearing and eyesight, in 1997. Morrin performed various eye tests and noted that Byrne’s optic nerve “looked waxy and pale”.

He told Fionnuala O’Sullivan BL, prosecuting, that while Byrne’s eyesight was normal from the point of view of his central vision, his peripheral vision was “very, very poor – almost non-existent”. Morrin said Byrne was not able to see any of the stimuli presented during a field test of his peripheral vision.

“I asked him did he drive, and he said he did not drive,” Morrin told the court.

“An optometrist can give an opinion that a person shouldn’t drive but cannot prohibit them from driving,” he added.

‘Bumping into objects’

The court also heard from Dr Paul Kenna, Clinical Ophthalmologist at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital Research Foundation.

Dr Kenna told the prosecution that he examined Byrne in December 1997, on foot of a request made in October that year by consultant Hugh Cassidy.

Dr Kenna said Byrne said he had been “bumping into objects” at night-time for two years prior to his visit and had experienced hearing problems since the age of two or three.

He said that Byrne’s central vision fell within the normal range but that tests, including an electroretinogram, showed “extensive loss” in his peripheral vision.

Dr Kenna said he reached the conclusion that Byrne had Usher Syndrome and said he had “a chat about driving” with him.

An extract from a letter written by Kenna to Cassidy and dated 9 December 1997 was read out in court, in which Kenna said he had “no doubt” that Byrne had Type 2 Usher Syndrome.

“Mr Byrne told me that he is currently driving in daylight and also at night. I strongly advised him against driving in daylight or at night, and hopefully he will take this advice,” the letter read.

Kenna explained to the court that, with Usher Syndrome, congenital hearing loss is combined with progressive degeneration of the retina.

He said that typically, the loss of mid-peripheral vision expands to include all peripheral vision and also into the central vision field, leaving the patient with a very small visual field and sometimes complete sight loss.

Kenna agreed with Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, that in 1997, Byrne would have passed a driving test, but that he would not pass one today.

O’Higgins said his client Byrne had no recollection of the conversation with Kenna, but that he remembered going to his consultant Hugh Cassidy.

O’Higgins said his client claimed Cassidy told him he had Usher Syndrome but that “he could keep driving until he was able”.

“Would it surprise you that he got that advice?” O’Higgins asked Dr Kenna, who replied that it would not surprise him, but that it wouldn’t have been his advice.

Barristers for the prosecution and the defence are due to give their closing speeches to the jury today.

The trial continues before Judge Patricia Ryan.

Comments are closed as the case remains before the courts

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Jessica Magee

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