The driver of the ZR van, which overturned along Nursery Drive, The City on Tuesday injuring 21 people, including close to a dozen school children, today appeared in the District ‘A’ Traffic Court on four charges.
Matthew Ricardo Daniel, 40, of Licorish Village, My Lords Hill, St Michael is accused of furious driving, dangerous driving, driving without due care and attention and driving without reasonable consideration for other road users.
Daniel was not required to plead before Magistrate Graveney Bannister. However, all four matters were set down for a preliminary hearing from September 26 to 28 this year.
Based on the seriousness of the allegations, Acting Station Sergeant Peter Barrow argued for the denial of bail. He pointed out that Daniel had antecedents and that, if convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine on the driving furious offence.
“There is a need to protect the society and general travelling public” the prosecutor stated.
He added that “one of the aggravating circumstances as it relates to these allegations, is that school children were traveling in the vehicle and a number of these persons were seriously injured . . . one of them still hospitalized and in a serious condition.”
The lawman also submitted that “it is a matter of public interest and at this stage tensions are very high”.
He added: “Parents are angry. The prosecution is of the opinion that we need to protect this accused man and there needs to be a cooling-off period.”
Investigations also need to be completed, Barrow went on, and if Daniel were to be granted bail, he said he feared that further allegations would arise.
In her response, Daniel’s attorney Angella Mitchell-Gittens contended that “there must be some evidentiary basis” for the prosecutor’s submissions. She added that her client’s charges had not arisen “out of gang warfare” but out of a traffic accident.
“So on what basis would further allegations arise?” she queried.
In relation to the investigations which needed to be carried out, Mitchell-Gittens asked whether “(Daniel’s) presence outside of Dodds Prison would prevent the Royal Barbados Police Force from carrying out their investigations”.
“So persons can only be interviewed if Daniels is in prison? If people are still being questioned in December this year, then is he to be held to his detriment?” the defence lawyer asked.
“Where is the evidence that he will interfere with someone? Has he or his family members called up any of the witnesses?”
Mitchell-Gittens contended that the prosecution “cannot bring four charges and then say investigations need to continue and use it as a basis to deny someone their liberty”.
She also felt that it was unreasonable to suggest that her client would “get up and run” simply because he faces the possibility of a 10-year maximum jail term if convicted.
“He is no more likely to run than anyone else charged with dangerous driving,” the attorney said, especially since the usual penalty for a conviction for death by dangerous driving was a suspended sentence and a fine.
“The problems in the transport system did not start with Matthew Daniel and they will not end with him,” Mitchell-Gittens contended.
She also questioned what the prosecutor meant when he said parents were angry.
“ . . . And they should be if their child was injured; but are they going to act on it?” the attorney asked.
The defence attorney went on to explain that Daniel was a father of two and a Barbadian national with a fixed place of abode and strong family ties.
“It is a serious offence but not so serious that Parliament has fettered your discretion to grant bail,” she submitted, “and not so serious that persons aren’t granted bail as a matter of course in these courts”.
Magistrate Bannister remanded Daniel until July 9 when he will return to the Traffic Court.