The wreckage of Patricia Lynch’s white Hyundai jeep is seen on the scene on Little Bay Road, May 4, 2019.
UTRECHT--The victim of the May 4, 2019, severe car crash on St. Maarten’s Little Bay Road and her lawyer are satisfied with the ruling of the Military Court in the case of Dutch Marine Arnout O., who caused the accident while under the influence of alcohol.
“I am happy to hear that finally there is closure after all this time. We can now put this behind us,” said victim Patricia “Patsy” Lynch, the 59-year-old driver whose car O. slammed into on the opposite side of the road. The impact caused her car to turn over and left Lynch with multiple injuries that had long-term consequences and required rehabilitation.
“I wish O. all the best and hope that he makes an effort to get his life in order. It is obvious that he was having issues. My prayers go out to him and his family,” said Lynch, who was grateful that the Military Court had recognised her as a victim.
On October 5, the Military Court in Arnhem sentenced the marine to three months in jail, which he has to sit in a military detention centre. The Court also ordered the revoking of the suspect’s driver’s licence for 24 months, and in addition he must pay the victim more than 12,000 euro in damages.
“The sentencing is totally reasonable and conforms to the guidelines in this kind of case that involves injury and recidivism,” stated Lynch’s lawyer in the Netherlands, victim and criminal defence specialist Nigel Coffi in an interview with The Daily Herald on Wednesday.
Lynch and her lawyer found it appropriate to react to the October 5 ruling now that the 14-day period to file an appeal has lapsed and the suspect has not made use of the right to appeal the sentence by the Military Court.
“The Court took the severity of the injuries and the fact that the suspect has been caught driving under the influence of alcohol into consideration. And, taking away one’s driver’s licence for 24 months in this case is completely fair,” said Coffi.
The Court had admonished the suspect for driving under the influence of alcohol. “The suspect decided to drive while having consumed three to six times more alcohol than is allowed even though he knew it was better to take a taxi. He paid insufficient attention and anticipated too little the other traffic,” it was stated in the verdict.
The part of the ruling which sentenced O. to three months in military detention and the 24-month driver’s licence revocation is no easy punishment for a young person. The victim had not been out to get 29-year-old O. into prison, but it was important for her that there was some kind of justice, recognition as victim and a sincere apology from the suspect.
“I am very content that the judge has allocated the damages that we asked for,” said Coffi about the damages that the suspect has to pay to the victim: 11,540.81 euros plus interest since May 2019. “This is an acknowledgement of the victim’s injuries and suffering,” he added. Because the Dutch government will stand guarantee for the damages, the victim is assured of receiving what was awarded to her if the suspect does not pay.
The crash on Little Bay Road, of which security footage circulated on social media, caused a lot of commotion in St. Maarten. The marine’s very rude behaviour after the crash contributed to the public outrage over this case.
The Court was very stern about the fact that the suspect several times ignored the orders of the police officers present at the scene, and that he threw down his belongings, undressed and showed his genitals at the police station. “The Military Court finds this behaviour, especially for a military man who is a guest in St. Maarten, highly inappropriate,” it was stated in the ruling.
According to attorney-at-law Coffi, the case has shown that this type of behaviour is not tolerated, in particular not from Defence personnel that are temporarily stationed on the island. If the perception existed in St. Maarten that Defence personnel can do anything they want and get away with it too, this ruling has eliminated that perception.
The lawyer commended the strict position of the commander in charge in Curaçao who made the decision to immediately repatriate the suspect after the accident so he could face charges in the Netherlands, and who made clear that there was no tolerance for this kind of behaviour.
“We are content. It is good to see for the victim and for St. Maarten that justice has been served,” said Coffi. He pointed out it was a good thing that Lynch had fought for her rights as victim and had come to him to assist her in this case which otherwise might have resulted in a much lower punishment and no recognition for the victim’s position.