A judge raised quite the arched eyebrow in court this week (September 25 ) when he discovered the first case up before him had been brought under escort from a six-month jail sentence to answer a charge of not wearing a seatbelt.
“Isn’t that wonderful? How much did that cost?” Judge Seamus Hughes asked of Inspector Aidan Minnock.
He was speaking in the case of Larry Ward (25 ) St Columbas Terrace, Tullamore, Co Offaly who had been an unsecured back seat passenger in a car stopped at Creggan Lower, Athlone on the old N6 on February 26.
Ward had been brought that morning from Castlerea prison in Co Roscommon, as the only occupant of a prison van, with two officers, and because his offence was scheduled for the 2pm list, he was due to sit - under escort - in the dock all day.
However, the senior escort approached the court clerk and asked if Ward’s case could be pushed up the list to allow the defendant and the two officers return to Castlerea before lunch.
“You’ve come from Castlerea? To answer a charge of not wearing a seatbelt? Isn’t this ridiculous?” said the judge, who has been a consistent critic of such waste within the system.
The senior escort told the court that Ward was serving a six-month sentence from Cavan Circuit Court, where he had appealed a sentence handed down in the District Court there for failing to give a proper name.
“Are you enjoying yourself?” the judge asked when he noticed Ward smiling at the proceedings.
“Yeah, your honour. I was drunk and I forgot my name, and I got six months,” he explained.
“All I know was he was a passenger in a car, judge,” said the prison escort, when the judge asked him to flesh out the Cavan case. No other details were available.
As is always required before sentencing, the judge asked: “Has he got any previous [convictions]?”
“Well, definitely one,” deadpanned the inspector, to the amusement of the court.
Judge Hughes acknowledged this and handed Ward a €100 fine, allowing the entourage return to Castlerea as soon as possible.