State bid to ban ‘insane’ fatal Limerick crash driver withdrawn

David Hurley

Reporter:

David Hurley

Hans Schnottalla was found not guilty by reason of insantity following a three-day trial. He is currently detained at the Central Mental Hospital

Hans Schnottalla was found not guilty by reason of insantity following a three-day trial. He is currently detained at the Central Mental Hospital

GARDAI have withdrawn an application to disqualify a German man who drove at speed into an oncoming car in killing the elderly driver in Limerick.

Following a three-day trial in January, Hans Schnottalla, aged 51, who was living at Ballycarney, Clarina at the time 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, 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.

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

Last month gardai formally moved an application for a special disqualification which would see Mr Schnottalla being banned from driving for life.

Inspector Paul Reidy told Judge John King the respondent remains at the Central Mental Hospital and he confirmed he was not present in court and that his attitude to the application was not known.

Solicitor Ted McCarthy told the court he had represented Mr Schnottalla during the criminal trial and he expressed concern there is no mechanism for the State to pay for his client to be legally represented when dealing with the application before the court.

“If we are to continue to be involved in this matter, we need to be paid for it,” he said.

The application was adjourned to allow gardai to consider their position and last week, Inspector Helen Costelloe indicated the application was being withdrawn.

However, she sought liberty to re-enter the matter, if necessary.