Durban motorist who killed 2 cyclists seeks bail, pending appeal

2018-06-04 15:29
Omesh Ramnarain has been sentenced to 10 years in jail. (Tania Broughton, News24)

Omesh Ramnarain has been sentenced to 10 years in jail. (Tania Broughton, News24)

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Omesh Ramnarain, the motorist who was sentenced to 10 years in jail for crashing into and killing two cyclists, wants to be released on bail, pending an appeal against his sentence and conviction on two counts of culpable homicide.

He was sentenced on May 25 and, while granting him permission to appeal, Durban Regional Court Magistrate Anand Maharaj ordered that he begin serving his sentence immediately.

The accident occurred on the M4 leading out of Durban in February 2016.

The cyclists, Richard da Silva and Jarred Dwyer, were at the back of a pack of cyclists who were on an early morning ride up the north coast.

While there were allegations that Ramnarain, who was returning from a night club, had been driving at speed and had been drunk, this was not proved, and Maharaj convicted him on his own version that he had just not seen the cyclists.

There was also a suggestion during the trial that a rock might have been thrown through the car's windscreen moments before he hit the cyclists, and that they had been travelling on the left-hand lane, not the emergency lane.

The magistrate rejected both these suggestions. 

He handed down an "exemplary" sentence.

"The number of people who lose their lives in road accidents in this country is unacceptably high… it's beyond comprehension. I believe this case is an opportunity to impose an exemplary sentence… to warn potential offenders that this is what could happen to them if they behave negligently," he said.

It was because of this, that he had denied Ramnarain bail pending appeal.

'Unjustified and irrational'

In a document noting the appeal, Ramnarain's attorney Reg Thomas said the magistrate was wrong. 

"He [Ramnarain] has been on bail throughout the trial and observed all conditions. Even the State did not oppose the granting of bail and placed on record that he was not a flight risk. 

"It is common cause that he is not a risk to society. It is not disputed that he is employed, has roots in the community and, as a result of his incarceration, about eight people and their families will lose their jobs and livelihood."

Thomas said he had not been found to be "grossly negligent or reckless", but simply that he had failed to keep a proper look-out.

He said the exemplary sentence was "unjustified and irrational" and that the magistrate was punishing his client by refusing to grant bail, especially because his appeal could succeed, and he would have served jail time unnecessarily.

The matter will be set down for argument before a judge in the Durban High Court.

Caro Smith, of South Africans Against Drunk Driving (SADD) congratulated Magistrate Maharaj for the sentence.

"We hope others will follow his lead to help deter these preventable and costly (both financial and emotional) crimes on our roads," she said.

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