The cyclo driver responsible for the death of a nine-year-old Hanoi boy in a fatal steel sheet collision last month has been released from detention after the victim’s family voiced a request to exempt him from criminal liabilities.
The investigative division of Hoang Mai District Police in Hanoi announced on Thursday that 52-year-old Dinh Ngoc Thach, the defendant in a violation of road traffic regulations case, has been released on bail.
Thach was operating a parked cyclo that carried oversized steel sheets which cut the throat of a passing nine-year-old boy on bicycle in the capital on September 23, leading to the boy’s death from exsanguination.
The driver was a former soldier who fought in defense of Vietnam’s northern borders against the Chinese invasion in 1979.
He is known amongst his friends and former comrades as ‘humpbacked Binh’ due to kyphosis condition caused by years of lying on the cold ground during his military service.
Thach was detained on Tuesday and prosecuted by Hoang Mai District Police on charges of violating road traffic regulations.
Despite being incidental, the serious consequences of Thach’s mistake make it worthy of prosecution, according to police.
Upon learning of Thach’s prosecution, the victim’s parents sent a letter to relevant authorities requesting that the cyclo driver be exempted from criminal liabilities.
A hard life
Thach has been married to his wife Le Thi Phuong for 30 years, and the couple has spent years working from dawn to dusk since leaving their hometown in Ha Nam Province for Vietnam’s capital in search of opportunities.
Thach had been driving his cyclo bought for years prior to the fateful accident. He bought the cyclo with money borrowed from friends and only makes around VND20,000 (US$0.9) for each cargo shipment, barely enough to feed his family and drug-addicted son.
“No, no, no,” the former soldier said with unconcealed panic on his face when Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper asked whether he would return his job as a cyclo driver after his release from jail.
“I will look for a porting job or labor work to live by, so that I won’t be involved in another tragedy,” Thach said, tears welling in his eyes.
According to lawyer Nguyen Anh Thom, Thach’s pro-bono lawyer, the former soldier qualifies for a criminal liability exemption stipulated by Vietnam laws.
Specifically, Thom said, a defendant can be exempted from criminal liabilities if they can prove they are no longer dangerous to society during legal proceedings.
“The fact that Thach’s violation was incidental, in addition to his voluntary conciliation offers and criminal liability exemption requests from the victim’s family, can free him of criminal liabilities,” the lawyer said.
Thach’s wife Le Thi Phuong cries as she waits for his release outside Hoang Mai District Police Station in Hanoi on October 6, 2016. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Dinh Ngoc Thach and his grandson outside Hoang Mai District Police Station in Hanoi moments after he was released on October 6, 2016. Photo: Tuoi Tre