Judge John Neilan has declined to convict a man of driving a taxi without a PSV licence.
Brian Mullen of 3 Ashgrove Park, Raharney was prosecuted by the taxi regulator for an offence which happened on July 11 this year when one of the taxi regulator’s enforcement officers stopped the car he was driving at a checkpoint at Petitswood manned by his colleagues and members of the Gardaí.
The officer had noted Mr Mullen had no photo identification and that Mr Mullen said he had left his photograph and licence at home.
He later admitted during interview that he had never held a public service vehicle licence.
Mr Mullen explained that a taxi driver friend, who did hold a licence, had asked him to help out when his father had just had a bypass operation and was unwell, but his regular substitute was unable to work.
He was not being paid for the job.
Judge John Neilan expressed his concern that in interviewing Mr Mullen and obtaining from him a statement indicating a plea of guilty they had removed his presumption of innocence.
“Why would they speak to you when it’s not in accordance with fair procedures?” he asked but counsel for the regulator Rory Hannify said the regulator had the right to meet with Mr Mullen and conduct a question and answer session.
Mr Mullen, an unemployed father of three who represented himself said he understood the case against him and wanted to plead guilty.
The judge said there was no evidence before the case to support the prosecution, that there was nothing to satisfy him that the vehicle Mr Mullen was driving was a taxi and questioned whether Mr Mullen had been cautioned.
Mr Hannify pointed out that all that evidence had been given in the enforcement officer’s testimony from the witness box and in Mr Mullen’s statement.
The judge then questioned whether paperwork supplied with the prosecution case was in order as one of four pages was not consistent with the others.
Mr Hannify advised the judge that it had been properly signed and dated.
Judge Neilan suggested that Mr Mullen being asked to drive the vehicle was “a good defence” but Mr Hannify said this did not excuse him from breaking the law.
“There’s a degree of give and take in life, a degree of compassion,” said the judge, who questioned whether the regulator wanted “to have a jump on everything in life?”
When Mr Mullen said he was struggling to keep his children in school and fed and to keep his head above water, the judge dismissed the case under the Probation Act.