The man accused of fatally injuring a Comox Valley cyclist was found not guilty Friday on both charges of dangerous driving causing death and failure to stop at an accident causing bodily harm.
Timothy Prad, 56, pleaded not guilty to both charges in the incident which Fanny Bay resident Paul Bally was struck by a southbound vehicle driven by Prad on Highway 19A near Curran Road in December 2014.
During the trial, defence lawyer Doug Marion explained his client’s “post-accident behaviour is consistent with innocence.”
Marion spoke to Prad’s credibility and that he had a reasonable basis to believe what he hit that evening was a deer.
Crown attorney John Boccabella told court to consider Prad’s inconsistencies with evidence the crown presented both on the stand, as well as in a police interrogation video.
Boccabella argued that Prad was subjecting himself to wilful blindness – a term used in criminal law to refer to the acts of a person who intentionally fails to be informed about matters that would make the person criminally liable.
Provincial court Judge Peter Doherty resided over the eight-day trial which took place late last year, and delivered the two-and-a-half hour verdict.
He told a standing-room only courtroom that Prad’s friend Cindy Perry provided “some of the most significant civilian evidence during the trial,” and her statement that there was no doubt in her mind that Prad was sober on the evening of Dec. 15, 2014, was significant.
He noted Prad’s “adamant assertion” throughout the trial that he thought he hit a deer.
“It is important to understand the difference between Mr. Prad’s dawning realization that he was the cause of the death of another human being and feeling overwhelming guilt about that, and mistaking it as proof that he was aware that he hit a cyclist and not a deer and that he left that cyclist in the ditch on the side of the road fleeing to escape criminal responsibility.”
Doherty also explained that in no way, is he victim-blaming as a result of the comments made in his judgement about Bally’s visibility.
“In my view, Mr. Bally took adequate precautions to be seen and he ought to have be seen with anyone driving with proper due care and precaution.”
He concluded that neither speed nor alcohol were factors in the case, and that Prad “said he simply did not see Mr. Bally.”
Rather, Doherty said, Prad’s failure to observe the cyclist may have been caused by a brief glance past him for a few seconds.
“In considering all of the other conditions on the road … in my view, his driving does not amount to dangerous driving as defined in the criminal code.”
He noted, however, that Prad’s conduct would likely amount to driving without due care and attention under the provincial motor vehicle act, but that section of the act is a statutory act, and does not charge nor is a lesser included offence within the dangerous driving act that he could consider.
As for the charge of failure to stop at an accident causing bodily harm, Doherty explained he was satisfied that Prad did stop, got out of his vehicle, listened for a noise in the ditch, and looked around, to his best ability without any supplemental illumination.
“Mr. Prad did not know that he hit Mr. Bally, nor is there any reason to suspect. I am not persuaded by leaving the scene of the accident he did so with the intent to escape criminal and civil liability.”
Outside the courthouse, Marion told media he thought it was the right decision.
“I think that the deceased in this case did everything he could to ensure that he operated a safe (bicycle) and he was visible. If you’ve driven that roadway, driving it in poor weather conditions is perhaps not advisable. No matter what steps he took, there is always the danger that someone simply wouldn’t see him,” he explained.
“And that’s what happened here – it was an accident.”
Neither Prad, nor members of the Bally family, spoke to media after the verdict.