€3k but no jail for man who offered to fight garda for truck

A man who offered to fight a garda for the keys of the lorry in which he had just been stopped without a licence, insurance, NCT, tachograph or tax for the previous four years, had his jail sentence suspended in the appeal court this week (May 19 ), but had the rest of his District Court sentence upheld.

Paul Moran (36 ), a haulier from Walderstown, Athlone was in the Circuit Court appealing a six month jail sentence and six year driving ban handed down in the District Court on November 13, 2007 stemming from his actions and behaviour on January 29 of that year.

Garda Keith Harrison, who also had to face a complaint from the defendant for use of excessive force in the arrest but was found to be blameless, told the court how he encountered a gravel lorry travelling slowly on the hard shoulder on the Roscommon Road at Sean Whites garage just before lunch on the day in question.

After stopping the vehicle he noticed it had no tax or insurance and when he asked for a licence and the last seven days' tachographs, he was told by the defendant he didn't have them.

Garda records showed the vehicle had not been taxed since July 2003 and none of the requested documents were presented to the Athlone station within the statutory 10 days.

When Gda Harrison also found two “excessively worn” rear tyres on the truck, he told Moran that he was impounding the vehicle under Section 41 of the Road Traffic Act.

“Mr Moran started to get aggressive. He told me I was only a b*****ks hiding behind my uniform,” said Gda Harrison.

“I asked him for the keys of the lorry and Mr Moran invited me to go round the back of Sean Whites garage and fight. Whoever won should get the keys.

“Judge, I declined this and he said: 'I'll rip your head off your f***ing shoulders, you pr**k'.”

A scuffle ensued for the keys for which Garda Harrison needed the assistance of his colleague, Garda Tom Neary.

After Moran kicked off the patrol car, all three ended up on the pavement, but the keys were recovered and handed to a student garda.

The lorry was taken to the Garda pound and Moran was left at the side of the road.

Garda Neary's evidence fully corroborated his colleague’s and the DPP felt no need to call the student garda.

In his defence, Moran said he was not the owner of the truck but a foreman for a Mr Thomas Fennelly from Athy, Co Kildare who had the contract to draw gravel from Knockcroghery to the new bypass.

Moran claimed he only went to the lorry after a named Romanian national reported a fault with the gearbox and he was called out to try and fix it.

However, Moran could not produce Fennelly, the Romanian or a P45 to back up any of this in court.

He admitted he didn't have a HGV licence and that he offered Garda Harrison a fight for the keys.

He also claimed “we turned over €5m”, that he was paid €50,000 a year and that he had bought Fennelly out six months ago but again, could offer no documentary evidence of any of this to the court.

“The evidence that's been given doesn't satisfy me, given the contradictions within it. The prosecution has proved its case,” said Judge Ray Fullam.

As Moran is providing for two children and employing four people, the judge suspended the District Court prison sentence and reduced the driving ban from six years to three.

His fines on all 13 charges added up to a total of €3,150 and Moran was given just four weeks to pay.

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