A local haulier convicted of driving without insurance whilst serving a three year ban for a similar conviction, was jailed for four months and disqualified from driving for 10 years in the District Court this week (October 27 ), but walked from court after lodging an immediate appeal.
Despite swearing on the lives of his two children in court that he was not driving the van that gardai said he was on the day in question, Paul Moran (38 ) of Walderstown, Athlone was unable to present to the court the man he claimed had been driving.
Garda Keith Harrison told Judge Aeneas McCarthy how he had stopped a lorry at the entrance of the Ballydonagh landfill site on April 15, 2009 and that there had been some issue with the vehicle’s insurance. The driver phoned his employer, the defendant, who drove to the site in an Isuzu Trooper jeep.
Defending solicitor, Mr Mark Cooney, suggested to Garda Harrison that his client was not driving this vehicle.
“Absolutely not. Mr Moran was the only person in the vehicle and he got out the driver”s side,” said Garda Harrison, who went on to tell the court how the defendant was known to him, and how he had prosecuted him for similar offences last year. He agreed there were “no issues” with the lorry he had initially stopped, only with the vehicle in which Moran arrived.
At this point Mr Cooney sought an adjournment to call the alleged driver of the Isuzu jeep, Declan O’Keeffe from Athy, Co Kildare, but Judge McCarthy ruled the defence had enough time in the last year and a half to have done this, and refused the application.
“Would it not be very foolish, knowing he was driving up to meet gardai, if he hadn’t any insurance?” asked Mr Cooney.
“Judge, Mr Moran drove the jeep, parked it on the other side of the road and got out the driver’s side. It was a bright, clear day,” said Garda Harrison.
“It was a commercial vehicle, two seats, and no other occupants.”
In his testimony, Moran accepted he had been called by his driver on the day in question but “we knew we were going to meet Garda Harrison because he’d stopped us nearly every day on the way to the dump”.
“Declan O’Keeffe drove the jeep he was selling to me,” said Moran, who went on to say it would have been an “impossibility” for Garda Harrison to have seen who was driving the jeep because he was behind the three lorries stopped at the entrance to the Ballydonagh landfill site.
He then testified that O’Keeffe got into an M&M Commercials van that had followed them to the location and then drove off.
“I’m not foolish. I wouldn’t’ve drove it straight up his nose,” said Moran.
“I’m not stupid. I have two children and I swear on their lives I didn’t drive,” said Moran.
However, Judge McCarthy was “satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Moran was driving the jeep” and convicted him. When his previous convictions were read to the court, it was revealed Moran had been found guilty of driving without insurance on three previous occasions, the most recent being a three year ban from Longford District Court from last year which became active the day before he was stopped at Ballydonagh. In May 2009 Moran had a six month jail sentence suspended and a six year driving ban commuted to three years after he appealed a November 2007 conviction for driving without insurance. His €3,150 worth of fines for all the other motoring offences he was found guilty of on that day were all upheld. Garda Harrison had been responsible for this arrest in January 2007, and gave evidence that when he took the keys from Moran’s lorry on that day, Moran offered to fight him for the keys.
Mark Cooney outined his client’s personal circumstances and asked the judge not to impose a custodial sentence, but Judge McCarthy was adamant as he handed down the four month sentence.
“He has several previous convictions and he still brazened it out today,” he said, before adding the 10 year disqualification. He did allow room for appeal and set an independent surety of €600 which an associate of Moran’s provided for the court.