Berbice truck driver appeals convictions in 12 driving deaths

The Route 63 mini-bus after the accident in 2010 (File Photo)

Chaitram Moonsammy, the Black Bush Polder, Berbice truck driver who was earlier this month found guilty of causing the gruesome Corentyne accident which left 12 persons dead in 2010, has appealed his conviction.

Moonsammy, 45, is contending among other things, that the verdict was unreasonable and that the trial judge erred in law when he rejected a no-case submission presented by his attorney.

On May 3rd, Moonsammy was found guilty at the High Court in Berbice on 12 counts of causing death by dangerous driving.

Chaitram Moonsammy

After the verdict, Justice Brassington Reynolds sentenced the man to nine years in jail on each count, but ordered that the sentences be served concurrently.

The indictment against Reynolds stated that on October 29th, 2010, at Susannah Village, East Berbice, he drove motor lorry GLL 8863 in a manner dangerous to the public, thereby causing the deaths of Oudit Narine Babulall, Marques Ault, Nazarudin Mahinudin, Salma Razac, Orlando De Mattos, Janet Baker, Cindy Jaggernauth, Lalita Mendonca, Patricia Asgarally, Josiah Khan, Salima Juman–Dinmahamad and Chetram Ramphal.

In his notice of appeal, Moonsammy argues that the judge allowed inadmissible evidence prejudicial to him having a fair trial.

According to him, Justice Reynolds erred in law in refusing his attorney’s application to stay the indictment on grounds of delay, which he said resulted in him not having a fair trial.

He argues, too, that it was unfair to try him since a statement taken by the police which was favourable to him had not been made available to him until the start of the trial and he further complained that the witness was not called by the prosecution at neither the preliminary inquiry nor at the trial.

Moonsammy has also taken issue with the judge’s summing up, which he says was unbalanced and in favour of the prosecution.

According to him, there was a non-direction which amounted to a misdirection when the judge omitted to inform the jury “that if the defence left them in a state of uncertainty, then the verdict would have to be one of not guilty.”

The appellant is being represented by attorney Mursaline Bacchus.

In his unsworn statement during the trial, Moonsammy claimed that minibus BHH 1842 attempted to overtake another vehicle and slammed into the truck he was driving. In his defence, he contended that the accident and the death of the 12 persons were not his fault.

The survivors of the accident—Sham Jaggernauth, Tamika Fraser and Ashwantie Singh— had testified that they saw the truck driven by Moonsammy attempting to overtake another vehicle and it slammed into the bus.

They also testified that the weather was gloomy, the roads were wet and that traffic was heavy.

Bacchus had requested that his client be given a non-custodial sentence as he waited eight years for a trial, during which time he too was suffering.

However, Justice Reynolds noted that a message needed to be sent and road users needed to be protected. He also noted that 12 persons lost their lives and it is left unknown what they could have contributed to society.



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