Doha’s Appeals Court has recently upheld the conviction of a man who hit and killed a 4-year-old girl while driving recklessly.
The man, Esa Salim Muhammad Al-Malki, was originally found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in March last year. Both he and his insurance company, Al-Takaful, lodged an appeal.
But the court’s decision means the original sentence of six months in jail still stands.
Additionally, Al-Malki must pay QR40,000 in fines for reckless driving and fleeing the scene. And he and his insurance company must jointly pay blood money of QR200,000 to the child’s family.
The nationality of the convicted man were not disclosed in court documents.
The appeal verdict was issued on Oct. 31, but was only recently reported in local media.
Hit and run
Al-Malki had been driving his car, a Toyota FJ Cruiser, in Al-Kharitiyat in northeastern Qatar in March 2014 when he suddenly turned off the road to avoid a stationary large truck.
This wide left turn caused him to drive in front of the house of a Pakistani family, whose four-year-old daughter was playing outside.
A witness told the court that he saw the whole incident, as he was parked six meters away outside his friend’s workshop at the time.
He described seeing Al-Malki’s car pull off the road, and added that observed a little girl on the ground after the defendant had driven by.
The defendant then apparently pulled his car up to his own home, which was nearby.
The witness said he observed Al-Malki looking at the girl on the ground. He made eye contact with him and pointed to the child to ask why this had happened.
However, Al-Malki didn’t respond and just went inside his own house, the man said.
The witness told the court that he then tried to call out to the girl, but she didn’t reply. So he and his friend both walked over to where she was lying and saw blood on the ground.
They then knocked on the door of her house to alert her family, who took the child to the Umm Salal health center. There, she was declared dead on arrival.
According to a forensic report, the probable cause of her death was a severe head injury.
Doctors found fragmented fractures on the left side of the victim’s skull, as well as injuries and bruises on the left side of her forehead, scalp and left cheek.
This tallied with testimony from the witness and a police officer who both told the court that they believed Al-Malki had hit the girl with the left side of his front bumper.
The defense’s case
Attorneys for the defendant and his insurance company argued that he was not responsible for the girl’s death.
According to Al-Malki’s lawyer, several other vehicles had passed through the scene, and any of them could have been responsible for the accident.
However, a second defendant, another driver at the scene, had already been found not guilty at Al-Malki’s first trial.
His lawyer also argued that tire tracks found next to where the girl had been hit were not from Al-Malki’s vehicle, but the court rejected this.
Meanwhile, Al-Takaful’s legal representative argued that the girl had been “carelessly crossing the road” without making sure it was clear, and that she had therefore put her life in danger.
But the Court of Appeals concluded that she was in fact playing in front of her house when she was struck by the car.
Al-Malki’s six-month jail sentence is a significantly harsher punishment than the one handed out to a female driver last year, who also struck and killed a 4-year-old.
At that time, a Filipina expat had been driving in a residential area in Bin Omran when she ran over a Pakistani boy. Unlike Al-Malki, however, the woman stopped to try to help the child.
The female driver, who was not named in media reports, was fined QR10,000 and ordered to pay QR200,000 in blood money, together with her insurance company. She escaped a custodial sentence.
In the past, some have criticized punishments given to motorists who land in court for killing pedestrians as too lenient, saying fines are not enough of a deterrent to improve road habits.
Editor’s Note: This story was edited on November 29 to add the name of the defendant’s insurance company.