Gardai make formal application to ban fatal Limerick crash driver for life

Hans Schnottalla was found not guilty by reason of insanity following a three-day trial Picture: Adrian Butler

Hans Schnottalla was found not guilty by reason of insanity following a three-day trial Picture: Adrian Butler

GARDAI have formally applied to have a German man who drove at speed into an oncoming car killing the elderly driver disqualified from driving for the rest of his life.

Following a three-day trial in January, Hans Schnottalla, aged 50, who has an address at Ballycarney, Clarina was found not guilty by reason of insanity of dangerous driving causing the death of Patrick ‘Sonny’ O’Reilly more than three years ago.

The fatal collision happened shortly before 9am on February 24, 2015 - minutes after Mr O’Reilly had dropped two of his grandchildren to Ballybrown National School.

The 73-year-old, a native of Ferrybridge, was returning home when his Ford Focus was struck by a Skoda Yeti being driven by Mr Schnottalla. 

During the three day trial at Limerick Circuit Court Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, Dr Paul O’Connell, said having assessed the defendant last year he was satisfied he suffers from a chronic mental disorder - namely Paranoid schizophrenia.

He said Mr Schnottalla was not adhering to his medication regime and that he believed he had suffered an acute psychotic breakdown around the time of the incident.

“In particular he described having a belief that he was being persecuted by what he called an entity which be believed wished to possess him and take over his body and then somehow this was connected to the idea that he was Jesus or that other people thought he was,” he said.

Following the special verdict, which was one of the first of its kind in Ireland, Mr Schnottalla was Judge Tom O’Donnell directed Mr Schnottalla be committed to the Central Mental Hospital under the provisions of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act.

Following the conclusion of the trial, John O’Sullivan BL, instructed by state solicitor Padraig Mawe, said the State was anxious to ensure that Mr Schnottalla does not drive again but he accepted it was not a matter for the court given the verdict.

At Limerick District Court this week, gardai formally applied for a special disqualification. Inspector Ollie Kennedy said Mr Schnottalla remains in the Central Mental Hospital but that he is likely to be discharged in the “not too distant” future.

He said the State would be relying on the diagnoses of Paranoid schizophrenia in support of the application.

Describing the application as “unique” solicitor Tom Kiely noted it could have “very serio us consequences” for his client if granted.

Mr Kiely noted the evidence during the criminal trial that Mr Schnottalla’s diagnoses may change going forward.

Insp Kennedy said there is an avenue, under the provisions of the Road Traffic Act, for anyone who is subject to a special disqualification to apply to get their licence back.

Noting that Mr Schnottalla was not present in court and that Mr Kiely intends seeking further advice from a senior counsel, Judge Marian O’Leary adjourned the application to June.

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