Judge Mary Devins this week dismissed a charge of using green diesel in a truck while accepting the facts in the interests of natural justice. The court was told by customs officer Sean Fitzgerald that he was operating a roadside checkpoint for marked gas oil on August 6 2008 at 12.30pm in Cloonfad, along with his colleague Carmel Godwin, when they stopped Thomas Shannon, Lavellyrow, Ballyhaunis, and carried out a roadside test for green diesel. The test proved positive for green diesel and he took three samples from the truck. He said that Shannon told him he had no idea how it had got in there. Fitzgerald told the court that on September 18 he handed custody of the samples over to Godwin to be tested with the next batch of tests. Godwin told the court that she sent the sample off to be tested on October 1 and then received the results back on December 9 which showed a proof of marked gas oil in the sample at 21 per cent.
Shannon told the court that three days prior to being stopped he was helping out at a scrapheap challenge charity event in Cloonfad to raise funds for defibrillators, where he was using his truck to remove cars after the event. At one stage in the day he shouted at someone to put some diesel into his truck as he was running low and it could have been put in by mistake at the site or at his house, where he has a barrel of green diesel for a JCB he uses occasionally. But he didn’t put it in himself and he had no knowledge of how it ended up in his truck. He also told the court he had been in the haulage business for many years and had been stopped many times by customs officials to be checked and it was the first time anything like this had happened.
Judge Mary Devins told the court: “The first thing I noticed in relation to this process was that it took 94 days for the sample to be analysed since it was taken, while of course it’s within the statue of limitations, to serve someone with a summons more than a year after they were stopped seems less than fair. While there is strict liability on the owner and operator to ensure that there is not marked gas oil in the vehicle, in the interests of natural justice, I will have to dismiss the case while accepting the facts.”