Man was ‘in fear’ when giving evidence in court

A Ballina man who denied at Ballina District Court that he was the driver of a stolen car which drove into the wall of a Ballina hotel was before court this week for a probation report.

At a previous court it was heard that Garda Gerard Carney was on mobile patrol with Garda Jude Gallagher on August 18 2012 at 1.30pm when they received a report that a suspected stolen red Volkswagen Polo was being driven around Ballina town erratically. Gardaí observed the car on Clare Street and the Garda car’s lights and sirens were activated. According to Garda Carney the Polo sped up and drove erratically in order to flee. The car was followed onto Cathedral Road where the registration was noted. At the bridge Garda Carney said that the car used its brakes very late and aggressively and took a right, where it almost hit a footpath. At Bridge Street it took a left turn at high speed, at an acute angle and the car hit the kerb outside the Ballina Manor Hotel, Barrett Street. The car mounted the footpath and the driver appeared to lose control as the car carried on. The car narrowly avoided a jeep and collided and wedged in to the front wall of the Ballina Manor Hotel.

Garda Carney and Garda Gallagher said that the driver jumped from the driver’s seat. Noel Canavan, a porter with the hotel observed the entire incident. He said he saw the driver open the door and run. Garda Carney chased this male while Garda Gallagher dealt with the remaining passengers in the car.

Near Supermac’s, Garda Carney caught hold of the driver’s jumper sleeve. At 2.35am David Carr, 85 Lord Edward Street, Ballina was arrested. Carr admitted that he was not the owner. The garda noticed that Carr may be under the influence of alcohol and was also arrested for drink driving. A urine sample provided showed 137mg of alcohol per 100ml of urine.

The registered owner of the car, Sadie Smith, who lives at Ridgepool village, was contacted by gardaí. She did not know that the car had been taken and gave no one permission to take it. In court she said that the car was unlocked and the key was under the dash.

Carr contested the charges of unauthorised taking, dangerous driving, drink driving and for the non production of a driving licence and insurance.

A probation report for the 19-year-old was before court this week. Counsel for him said that he is in full-time employment as a driver for a wholesale company and has not talked to the other people who were involved in the incident. The counsel said that her client was not in a position to identify who was driving that night due to the fact that he was “in fear”. Judge Devins asked: “Are you saying that when your client took the oath he effectively lied or omitted to tell all the facts as he was afraid of other people?” Judge Devins said that it is “simply contrary to natural justice” for her to convict a person who under oath could not tell the truth because of fear. Because of this the judge said she would like to see if she has the jurisdiction to direct an investigation to be carried out and adjourned the case to July 23 to check the legislation.

The defendant was also before court for handling stolen property on January 31 2012. Judge Devins disposed of this matter and convicted and fined Carr €100.

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