A man who has “an appalling record” and who was four times the legal limit was convicted and fined a total of €1,000 and disqualified from driving for three years at Carrick-on-Shannon District Court last week.
John Harte, Shragh, Cloonloo, Boyle, Co Roscommon was charged with careless driving and hit and run of a vehicle belonging to Declan Regan at Tinacarra, Boyle on November 23, 2019, and with being drunk in charge of a vehicle with intent to drive at Elphin St, Boyle on the same date.
Mr Regan told the court he was driving to Boyle at about 5pm that day from the Gurteen direction and pulled in at a railway bridge to allow a lorry to pass through.
He said he had stopped completely and the car behind him drove into him.
He pulled into the verge and got out. The driver, Mr Harte, approached him and said 'you're not getting f***ing compensation off me, there's nothing wrong with your car.'
Mr Regan said his rear bumper was hanging off and the back lights were broken. Mr Regan said he was going to ring the Gardai and Mr Harte got into his car and drove off.
Mr Regan said the damage was approximately €4,000 and the defendant's insurance company paid it.
He pointed out the defendant in court, to which solicitor John McNulty objected as Mr Harte was the only member of public in the court at the time.
Garda Mary Baldwin gave evidence of attending the scene with Sgt Bernard Kilroy and speaking with Mr Regan.
They later drove into Boyle and saw a vehicle that matched the description parked at Elphin St. There was damage to the front of the van on the driver's side.
She spoke to the man who was sitting in the driver's seat. He was eating a pizza. She formed an opinion and he was arrested at 5.50pm and brought to Roscommon Garda Station. A sample of blood was taken and showed a reading of 205mg/100mls.
Sgt Kilroy gave his evidence. He said he spoke to Mr Harte who was eating a pizza and had a large number of cans of Carling in the footwell. He invited Mr Harte to step out of the vehicle. When he did, he put his hands in the air and said he was admitting to nothing. There was an extremely strong smell of alcohol from his breath, he said.
Solicitor, John McNulty said in relation to the careless driving charge, there was no evidence at all of the registration number of the vehicle and nothing at all to tie his client or his vehicle to the accident.
He said, in relation to the charge of being drunk in charge, there was absolutely no evidence given by Garda Baldwin why she formed an opinion. He said it didn't matter about the level of the sample because it was unlawfully taken, he argued.
Judge Kevin Kilrane described Mr Regan as an extremely honest and honourable witness who did not stray one inch from what he saw or knew. He said Mr Regan identified him as the person who drove into him and the defendant had a case to meet.
He said the Gardai arrested him for being drunk in charge and he was satisfied the opinion in question was covered by the wording of the arrest.
Mr McNulty said the identity of the vehicle had not been proven, however, Judge Kilrane said the number plate pleading was not necessary.
He said he was satisfied by the evidence Mr Regan gave that a vehicle impacted him and that vehicle was driven by the defendant and that was sufficient to deal with whether this was a case of careless driving.
The court heard Mr Harte has previous convictions from Sligo District Court in 2017 for refusing to give his name and address, from Roscommon District Court in 2011 for criminal damage and intoxication in public, and from Ballaghaderreen District Court in 2006, for careless driving and drunk driving.
Mr McNulty said his client is a self-employed block layer from a farming background who was born in 1981.
Judge Kilrane said the defendant was highly intoxicated, the reading was over four times the limit, and he rear-ended Mr Regan's car which was stopped at the time. Instead of apologising for what happened, he launched into a tirade of abuse and said he was not getting any compensation, the judge said.
He said this was in keeping with the defendant's past record and was not out of character for him.
“He has an appalling record, mostly drink related. He is not a nice person when he has alcohol taken,” he said.
He said he jumped into his car and left Mr Regan “twisting in the wind” and when he stepped out of the car his first comment was he was admitting to nothing.
Judge Kilrane said the evidence in the garda station from the garda was “fuzzy” but just about got by. He said the garda was not obliged to remember what happened in relation to taking blood.
“The defendant's reading is quite shocking,” he said.
He convicted and fined him €600 for being drunk in charge and disqualified him for three years.
For the hit and run charge he was convicted and fined €400 and disqualified for a concurrent period of three years
He was also convicted of the careless driving charge which was taken into consideration.
Recognisances were fixed in the event of an appeal.