“I’m not impressed at all by the manner in which the defendant and his witnesses have decided to defend this case,” said Judge Kevin P Kilrane prior to imposing a conviction for careless driving against Jamie O’Flaherty, Belvue, Grangemore, Raharney, Co Westmeath and fining him €750.
Giving evidence Elizabeth Gilhooley said she contacted Carrick-on-Shannon garda station at approximately 2pm on October 4, 2017 following “an incident.”
Giving evidence Ms Gilhooley said she was travelling on the Dublin Road, from the Tesco Roundabout, when her attention was drawn to a car that appeared to come around the roundabout “much too fast.”
She added: “He came in on the hatch lines and I feared he was going to come over on my side completely.”
Ms Gilhooley said she circled the Dublin Rd roundabout and went back towards the Tesco roundabout and could see the vehicle in front of her “veering from side to side.”
She observed the vehicle travelling in the direction of the Castlecara road adding: “I felt it wasn’t a one off; that he was messing on the road.”
Ms Gilhooley said she was unable to get the registration number of the vehicle but got a clear look at the driver who she described as being in his late 20s or early 30s and was unshaven.
Ms Gilhooley added: “He appeared to me to be laughing after he got the vehicle straightened up.”
When asked if she recognised the defendant in court, Ms Gilhooley pointed to the defendant.
Garda Declan Conway gave evidence that at approximately 2pm on the date in question he received a call from a male who detailed what was described as dangerous driving at what was referred to as the Aldi roundabout.
The caller described the vehicle as a silver pick-up and gave the registration number and said there were two occupants in the vehicle. Having ended the call Garda Conway said he spoke to a colleague who said he received a similar call from Ms Gilhooley.
Garda Conway and his colleague, Garda Quigley, drove in the direction of the Castlecara looking for the silver pick-up. He said they turned right for Drumsna then towards Gowel church and then turned towards Leitrim Recyclers.
Upon arriving at that business premises they located a vehicle matching the description they were given and the registration plate also matched. Gda Conway said he put his hand on the bonnet of the vehicle and observed that it was warm.
Garda Conway said he went towards the office and said they were there in relation to an incident of dangerous driving connected to the silver pick-up.
Garda Conway said the man they spoke to was “very reluctant” to give details before pointing to a shed and saying the driver was over there.
Garda Conway said he spoke with the defendant and informed him there were two complaints in relation to the manner of driving connected to the silver pick-up.
The defendant, Jamie O'Flaherty confirmed it was his vehicle and he had driven on the roads in question.
Continuing his evidence Garda Conway said: “It struck me the description of Liz Gilhooley was very accurate. He was scruffy, in work clothes and had oil and grease on his hands.”
The court heard Mr O’Flaherty was “very reluctant” to provide details of his identity and had no driver’s licence with him. He informed Garda Conway he was from Co Westmeath but was unable to provide the exact address he was living at in Carrick-on-Shannon and he was subsequently arrested for the purpose of ascertaining his correct identification.
After the defendant’s identity was confirmed he was released and Garda Conway contacted both witnesses. He said Ms Gilhooley was prepared to make a statement but the other witness was not prepared to do so but thanked gardaí for their work.
Under cross-examination from defending solicitor Elaine O’Toole, Garda Conway explained how they knew to travel to Leitrim Recyclers saying: “We took a chance and the vehicle was there. I didn’t know there was pick-up vehicles there. I never encountered anyone from that establishment before.”
Garda Conway added: “There was a lot of information not forthcoming from Mr O’Flaherty. He did dispute an allegation of dangerous driving.”
The second defence witness, Ryan Vidal, who operated the scrapyard in Kiltoghert said Mr O’Flaherty was working for him. He told the court there were two pick-ups; his black vehicle and Mr O’Flaherty’s silver vehicle that travelled together back from Corrib Oil where they had eaten their lunch.
He said: “I was behind James’ pick-up all the way. The traffic was heavy enough and it was raining heavy. I was behind him all the way. I didn’t notice anything about his driving.”
When asked who was in the jeep with Mr O’Flaherty, Mr Vidal said: “I only knew him by his first name - Brendan.”
Under cross-examination from Superintendent Kevin English he was asked to give further details about the passenger. He replied: “I believe Brendan was about 14, I don’t recall his second name. His father brought in scrap to us; I don’t recall his second name.”
When asked why Brendan was not at school on the day in question, Mr Vidal said: “I believe he was suspended from school that day.”
The defendant’s brother, Finn O’Flaherty also gave evidence saying he was on site at Carrick Recyclers on the date in question saying he travelled from Corrib Oil to the Leitrim Recyclers with Mr Vidal with the defendant driving in front of them. He said: “I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary about his driving.”
The witness said he was present when gardaí arrived at Leitrim Recyclers but was not spoken to. When asked if he was questioned, he replied: “No. I don’t think they even saw me. They just walked by me.”
The final witness in the case was the defendant, Jamie O’Flaherty who denied the accusation. Addressing the court Mr O’Flaherty said: “I had to slow down coming on to the roundabout. There was traffic before I came on to all three roundabouts.”
When asked why the passenger, Brendan, was not present in court, Mr O’Flaherty answered: “I don’t know who he is.”
When it was put to him by Supt English that two independent witnesses had contacted the garda station in relation to his driving, the defendant said: “I’m saying that I don’t recall any of what was said in relation to me.”
Having heard the facts of the case Judge Kilrane said: “I have to try to assess the credibility of evidence on both sides. The evidence of Mrs. Gilhooley is clear cut.”
Referring to the evidence provided by the defendant’s brother Judge Kilrane said: “It is puzzling as to why the other Mr O’Flaherty didn’t make himself known and ask if he could help.
“I am somewhat concerned as to whether or not the other Mr O’Flaherty was there at all.”
Judge Kilrane was particularly critical of the evidence provided by Mr Vidal which he described as “strange.”
Judge Kilrane said: “The young lad of 14 is Brendan but he doesn’t know his second name. He knows his father but doesn’t know his second name. It is extraordinary that we don’t know who he is and I reject Mr Vidal’s evidence in that regard. I don’t accept there was any young lad called Brendan.”
Judge Kilrane said he rejected the evidence provided by the defence in relation to the manner of the defendant’s driving; the second vehicle; the Brendan boy and the evidence of Mr Vidal that the young boy was suspended from school.
Ruling as outlined Judge Kilrane dismissed charges of failing to produce a certificate of road worthiness; no driving licence and no tax. In relation to charges of non-production of a driving licence and non-production of insurance the defendant was given the benefit of the probation act.
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