Twelve year ban for driver in legal aid row

A farmer who was granted legal aid for a drink driving prosecution, went surety for an individual before the Special Criminal Court for €50,000 Dundalk district court heard last week.

However, the Defence solicitor told the court that her client is only a wealthy man “on paper”.

Judge William Hamill had sought the information in relation to John Kirk (66) of Drumkeith, Inniskeen, who was before the court for a second time for drink driving while disqualified.

The court previously heard the accused was caught drink driving at Tullycahan, Louth on the 23rd of June 2012 after gardai saw him driving on the wrong side of the road through Louth Village.

He had two previous convictions for drink driving - as well as driving without insurance and driving while disqualified, arising out of the second offence and the Defence barrister told that earlier hearing that his client had become a shell of a man since the death of his wife and had turned to drink to try and cope with that.

Judge William Hamill put back the case so a probation report could be prepared, but he was told three weeks ago that an adjournment was being sought as the defendant was in the Special Criminal Court, as a person he had stood surety for was applying to have their bail terms amended.

The week before last,Judge Hamill asked how the accused came to be granted legal aid when he was in a position to stand surety.

He was told that the surety related to deeds of land and no cash was involved but the Judge said he understood that the legal aid application form asks what assets a person has.

The Defence barrister said his client’s income is a pension of €200 a week. He also said the accused has been attending counselling for his drinking.

Last Thursday, the court heard the amount of the surety was €50,000 but the Defence solicitor stressed that related to title deeds and she said while on paper Mr. Kirk is a wealth man in reality, he is not.

She added that mentally, he believes he does not own the land as it’s farmed by his son. She said there is a mental health issue but through the intervention of the court and counselling “this man is on the right road”.

The solicitor added that she thought a suspended sentence would work in this case as he client was assessed as being at low risk of reoffending.

Judge Hamill replied “I wonder if he understands the position he is in having gone independent surety”.

The solicitor said that while the medical report before the court “is very frank and paints a bleak picture, thankfully he is coming out of that” and she added that her client has proper support from his family and it was unlikely that he would get in car and do something as silly as this again.

Judge Hamill imposed a five month suspended sentence, a €2,500 fine and a 12 year driving ban and warned “I f he goes out and drives again he’ll be brought back before the court and the court will have run out of options”


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