Judge criticises lieutenant for being grossly discourteous

A member of the Defence Forces was roundly criticised by Judge John Neilan for her attitude to the court.

The judge criticised the lieutenant for being “grossly discourteous” for not appearing in uniform and for not addressing the court and requesting permission to take notes.

“You can tell Dermot Early,” he said, that she is “not entitled to come to court and hold a watching brief on behalf of anybody unless you first seek formally identify yourself to the court and seek permission”.

She was accompanying George Doherty, who has an address at 94 Rinmore Drive in the Creggan Estate in Derry as he met a drink driving charge. He is stationed in Mullingar.

The court heard the 21-year-old came to Garda attention when he collided with a cement paling in Tesco’s carpark shortly after 4am on February 7.

Mr Doherty, who has no previous convictions recorded an alcohol reading of 68mg/100ml. However, when solicitor Susan Fay advised the court that her client could be in professional jeopardy if he was fined more than €260, the judge said that he didn’t understand how there were “parallel systems of justice in the State.”

Mr Doherty’s conduct rating would be affected and he may not be re-inlisted, Ms Fay said.

Judge Neilan said this was in stark contradiction to a previous decision in a higher court, and if he thought it was the case that Mr Doherty would be further penalised by the army, despite having been dealt with in a court of law, he would strike out the charge.

“It seems an unconstitutional matter,” pointed out the judge who said “I do not wish in any way to put in place any structure and order that would interfere with his employment.”

He imposed a three year disqualification and a fine of €250 on the basis that a contribution to charity had been offered by Mr Doherty.

After imposing the penalty, the judge addressed the lieutenant accompanying Mr Doherty and told her “you don’t have the right to hold a watching brief unless you receive the authority of the court”.

He told her it was “grossly discourteous” to turn up in civil uniform and not disclose her position and to take notes to give to her commanding officer.

He also said it was not her job to speak to the defendant’s solicitor regarding the implications of fines.

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