A judge has described as ‘inexcusable’ the driving of a young man who has been convicted of dangerous driving.
The events in a supermarket car park were witnessed by an off-duty garda and CCTV was shown in court.
Daniel Harty, 29 College Avenue, Callan Road, Kilkenny, contested the charge before Kilkenny District Court.
Garda John Moloney gave evidence that he had come out of the SuperValu in Callan, at approximately 9pm on April 3, 2020, and was walking into the car park behind the store, when his attention was drawn to two vehicles.
A black Skoda Octavia took off at speed, towards Garda Moloney, and a Toyota Landcruiser came from behind, speeding towards the Octavia and the garda.
As they reached the entry/exit road to the car park the Landcruiser sped past the left of the Octavia and swerved in front of it, causing the Octavia to brake.
Garda Moloney then saw the Octavia reverse at speed, lock the wheel to turn, and drive away through the back entrance to the car park. It passed other cars in the car park.
The Landcruiser also reversed at high speed, locked the wheel causing it to turn and tilt. It ‘took off after’ the Octavia.
Daniel Harty was driving the Landcruiser, Garda Moloney said. He told the court he knew Mr Harty well and was close to the vehicle.
The driver of the Octavia he recognised as Kevin Roche. Both men are from the Callan locality. He said he was ‘100% sure’ of the identities and the car park is well lit.
Garda Moloney rang the gardaí on duty in Callan to report the incident.
The garda obtained the CCTV from SuperValu.
Garda Moloney met Mr Harty the next day and he denied driving the night before. He wouldn’t say who was driving. He became ‘aggressive’ and took his own items out of the jeep.
Solicitor Chris Hogan, for Mr Harty, asked the garda if he had spoken to Mr Roche the night before court asking him to identify Mr Harty.
Garda Moloney said Mr Roche told him he would be in court to say Mr Harty was not driving. “That doesn’t surprise me one bit,” the garda added.
Garda Moloney said: “In my opinion Daniel Harty drove at speed and put people’s lives in danger.”
Garda Maria Kelly gave evidence that at approximately 9.10pm on April 3 she stopped the Landcruiser at Clonmel Road, Callan. The driver was Daniel Harty and he had a passenger.
She said it was the beginning of the first lockdown and she spoke to both men and advised them to go home.
Kevin Roche also gave sworn evidence in court. He said Daniel Harty was not driving on the night in question. Answering Inspector Paul Donohoe, Mr Roche said he didn’t know who was driving the Landcruiser, he thought it was ‘a farmer’. He said he didn’t think the other driver was trying to run him off the road.
Mr Hogan applied for the charge to be struck out because there was no evidence his client had been driving in the car park.
Judge Geraldine Carthy said Garda Moloney pointed out where he was on the CCTV and he was close to the vehicles. She said Mr Roche’s evidence was “absolutely not credible at all.”
She convicted Mr Harty.
The court heard Mr Harty had 19 previous convictions.
Mr Hogan said this was his client’s first conviction for dangerous driving. He is the father of a young daughter and not currently working.
Judge Carthy said there was no doubt about it that the driving seen on the CCTV was ‘inexcusable and erratic’. She said not only did Mr Harty put himself at risk, but asked how anyone would have escaped if they were walking across the car park.
She imposed a fine of €2,000 and disqualified Mr Harty from driving for two years.
Recognisance was fixed in the event of an appeal.
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