A Latvian national who appeared before last week’s sitting of Carrick-on-Shannon District Court was convicted of a number of motoring offences, sentenced to four months in prison, fined a total of €300 and disqualified from driving for five years.
Prior to sentencing Judge Kevin P. Kilrane said, “These are very serious offences for two reasons - the previous record and the manner in which the defendant has decided to run the case.”
Sgt McHale gave evidence against Aigars Zalais, 32 Inver Gael, Carrick-on-Shannon who denied the offences.
Sgt McHale stated at 1.30pm on January 16, 2017 while on mobile patrol he observed a vehicle which did not have an insurance disc displayed in the window.
Sgt McHale continued his evidence saying he followed the defendant into the Inver Gael housing estate. The driver got out of the car, ignored Sgt McHale and walked past him and then walked in to his own home.
Sgt McHale said he spoke to a woman at the door of the property who gave him identification to ascertain the identity of the driver.
Under cross-examination from defending solicitor Pauline Brady, Sgt McHale refuted the suggestion that the defendant “was not driving.”
Sgt McHale replied, “He was driving on a public road on the N4 and he drove into Inver Gael.”
Continuing the cross-examination, Ms Brady asked how he observed that the car was missing a disc while the car was moving.
Sgt McHale replied that experience within An Garda Siochana has trained him to detect such matters.
Sgt McHale also insisted he had no previous dealings with the defendant saying, “I was only stationed here a week. There was no other reason to stop him.”
He added, “The only thing he did say was ‘you didn’t stop me’.”
Under cross-examination the defendant, Mr Zalais was asked if he remembered the events of the date in question, to which he replied, “Yes.”
Through an interpreter Mr Zalais told the court, “I have to tell my side of the story.
“My kids are educated at home, my wife was busy with the children. She asked me to bring the electricity bill from the car. When I closed the (car) door I was going back to the house and I saw the Garda car. The officer stepped out of the car, circled around my car, then asked me where is the insurance disc. I said that it is my car but we are planning to change the windscreen.”
Mr Zalais continued, “He asked me my name and address and I said I’m not giving to you. He asked me for my driver’s licence and I said I didn’t have one. I had recently had a case for having no driver’s licence.”
The defendant said he was told by Sgt McHale if no driver’s licence was produced he would tow the car away.
Mr Zalais said he then informed Sgt McHale that he would get his wife to explain matters to him.
When asked by Judge Kilrane how far he lived from the main road he replied that he was 300 metres from the N4.
When it was put to him by Insp Denis Harrington that his evidence was at odds with that of Sgt McHale, the defendant replied, “Yes, because we all see the way we want to see.”
Insp Harrington then asked, “Are you saying Sgt McHale is lying?” In reply Mr Zalais said, “I didn’t say that.”
Insp Harrington then asked, “In direct evidence you said ‘my car was parked.’ Why did you say ‘my’?’
In reply the defendant said, “Because we are a family.”
When asked why he refused to give his name and address to Sgt McHale, Mr Zalais replied, “I didn’t see the reason and I didn’t think it was necessary.”
Insp Harrington replied, “You knew you were in trouble, that’s why you didn’t co-operate?”
Mr Zalais retorted, “I don’t have any problems with the Gardai, they have problems with me.”
In direct evidence the defendant’s wife, Dina, who claimed ownership of the vehicle, said “There was a huge crack across the windscreen. I had it booked to get it changed, the disc was in the visor.”
A neighbour of the defendant also gave evidence in which he stated the car in question was not moved all day.
Having heard the evidence Judge Kilrane remarked, “The Sergeant gave evidence which is absolutely rock solid. The defendant mentions Gardai in general were causing him hassle. I am satisfied that is without foundation.
“In effect, the defendant is saying the Sergeant fabricated the story because Gardai were giving him trouble.”
Judge Kilrane also referred to the evidence of the defendant who said he lived 300 metres from the main road saying, “That is significant.
“The Garda followed him, saw the defendant alight from the car. He couldn’t possibly have seen the car from the main road.”
Judge Kilrane also noted that he “found difficulty” in the argument put forward by the defence that the defendant was simply retrieving an ESB bill from the car while he said he found the argument put forward by the defendant’s wife that the car was left unlocked in the estate “less than convincing.”
Judge Kilrane imposed a conviction in relation to the charges of no driving licence, no insurance and failing to give his details to gardai.
The 40-year-old father of four was sentenced to four months in prison and disqualified from driving for four months in relation to having no insurance and fined €100 for having no driver’s licence. He was fined €200 and disqualified from driving for five years for failing to give his details to Sgt McHale.
Recognisances in the event of an appeal were fixed at €100 own bond, €1,500 independent surety of which €500 must be cash.