A Mohill man was ordered to return to court with €2,500 in order to avoid a disqualification for careless driving at Tamlaghtavally, Mohill when he appeared before Judge Kevin Kilrane in a lengthy case at Carrick- on-Shannon District Court.
Kevin Wynne, Rossdoowuan, Mohill faced three counts of careless driving, one of being over the breath alcohol limit, a further charge of having a dog without a muzzle, and control of a dog with no chain and leash, related to events in the early hours of May 4, 2019.
The first witness, Gda Marie O'Reilly, reported how she had been on duty in Mohill on May 3 and observed a male walking from a takeaway across the road to his vehicle on Mohill's Main Street.
She drove her squad car up to the church and as she was turning she saw the male get into the driver's side of the car with a pizza box. The vehicle had moved on by the time she came back down the town so she called in the registration of the car to a traffic car in the area.
Gda Declan Conway had been on duty that night in the traffic car with Sgt Cara Kiernan and Gda Pat McAndrew when they received a call from Garda O'Reilly about the vehicle driven by the defendant at around 12.30am.
The traffic car was on the Carrick-on-Shannon side of Mohill and Sgt Kiernan, who was driving, wished to speak to the driver of the vehicle in connection with another matter she was investigating.
She drove in the direction of Mohill and a few minutes later a vehicle matching the registration drove past them.
The garda traffic car turned and followed it as it left the R201 turning into a local road where Gda Conway said it “took off at speed.”
“An accident could have occurred,” noted Gda Conway. He said along one part of the road the side dropped away to the left adding that the road was “only wide enough for one vehicle” and at times they lost sight of the vehicle and could only follow it by tracking the “headlights as it progressed.”
The car was eventually found parked on the roadway outside a house.
Gda Conway and Gda McAndrew got out of the traffic car and approached the vehicle and found the bonnet still warm and a pizza box sitting on the seat.
The front wheels were also warm and skid marks were noted on the roadway near where the car was parked.
Gda Conway said there were no lights on in the property but he could hear a dog barking and he noticed a side gate was open.
He followed the footpath around the house and discovered “a male hiding down in an embankment covered with long grass.”
The man gave his name as Kevin Wynne. He claimed that he had run out of the house when he heard a vehicle pull up outside and was described as “aggressive” by Gda Conway.
Gda Conway said that he suspected that Mr Wynne was the driver of the vehicle they had followed from the R201 and he arrested the defendant on the suspicion of drunk driving.
Mr Wynne was brought back to Carrick-on-Shannon Garda station where he provided two specimens of breath with an alcohol level of 46 microgrammes per 100ml of breath.
Gardai later dropped Mr Wynne back to his house where Gda Conway walked over to measure the skid marks on the roadway.
Mr Wynne let out a German Shepherd dog from where it was locked in a shed on the property and the dog began “barking aggressively” at Gda Conway.
Mr Wynne then told gardai “You'd want to watch yourself, that dog will eat ya.”
“I said (to Mr Wynne) you're obliged to muzzle a dog like that in a public place,” noted Gda Conway, at which point Mr Wynne turned and went into the house, shutting the door and leaving the dog outside.
Gda Conway said that “for his own safety he felt he couldn't remain outside the garda vehicle with the dog acting so aggressively” and he left.
During cross examination Mr Wynne's solicitor asked Gda Conway when he had formed an opinion about the defendant in this case in relation to the drink driving offence and Gda Conway said that the vehicle had previously been parked outside a public house and by the manner of driving and the way it had been parked, this was the basis on which he had formed his opinion that a person was possibly trying to avoid detection by gardai.
The solicitor pointed out that even if this vehicle had been parked outside a public house in Mohill, there was no suggestion that the person driving it had been in the pub.
However Gda Conway said that he believed the driver of the vehicle to be Mr Wynne and he tried to “avoid detection.”
He also noted that when he found Mr Wynne he acted in a “very aggressive” manner and there “was a strong smell of intoxicating liquor from his breath.”
Judge Kevin Kilrane acknowledged that it may have been a reasonable suspicion that the driver of the vehicle was trying to evade gardai but said, “I cannot hold that opinion was properly formed on the basis of this fellow trying to outrun the gardai'.”
He said there was nothing wrong with the “way Mr Wynne had walked from the takeaway across the street to his vehicle” that night adding that it was clear the “drunk driving aspect of this prosecution has got to fail.”
Sgt Cara Kiernan said that Mr Wynne had been a person of interest in another investigation. She was driving the car that followed him and said, “I do not believe this vehicle would have been able to pull in or stop safely at any time, if it met another vehicle.”
Mr Wynne's solicitor insisted there was “no evidence” his client was the driver of the vehicle.
He also sought direction in the matters relating to the dog stating there was no proof the dog had been on the public road.
Inspector Emmett Treacy argued that gardai had followed the vehicle to the house at Rossdoowaun where Mr Wynne was found hiding in the back of the property so it was reasonable to believe that he was driving the vehicle found parked outside the property, a vehicle which was still warm when gardai found it parked.
He also pointed out the vehicle had been followed to the property and Mr Wynne was the only person found in the vicinity.
Judge Kilrane said he agreed that the defendant had a case to answer on the charge of careless driving.
He said that the charge of careless driving was not dependent on the same level of evidence as a drunk driving matter.
The judge further noted that the release of the dog by Mr Wynne in the presence of gardai could not prove the dog was allowed to escape onto the public roadway but he said it was clear “the defendant let the dog out intentionally.”
“Everything about this man on the night in question was truculent, obstructive and difficult,” said Judge Kilrane.
“Anyone who would let a German Shepherd dog out to interfere with a garda doing his duty confirms that he is in a mind to do whatever could be done to escape detection.”
He then convicted Mr Wynne on one count of careless driving at Tamlaghtavally. It was noted that Mr Wynne had no previous convictions and worked for the council and needed his licence for his job as a digger driver.
Judge Kilrane said “everything about this says that the defendant should be disqualified. The only alternative is that it will cost him and I am talking about €2,500.”
The summons for being over the breath alcohol limit was dismissed and those for having a dog with no muzzle and control of a dog without a chain or leash were struck out. The remaining two careless driving summonses for Rosdoowaun, Mohill and Ussaun, Mohill were also struck out.
The matter was then adjourned to May 25 to allow Mr Wynne to come up with the money.
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