A South Armagh man who denied being the driver of a Mercedes sports car when it crashed was convicted at the local district court last week of failing to give information to a garda after the collision.
Judge Flann Brennan said he did not accept the evidence of 25-year-old Eamon Bishop with an address at Carrickasticken Road, Forkhill.
The defence had claimed that a 16-year-old boy the accused had met at a house party was behind the wheel at the time of the accident, which happened in the early hours of June 22nd last year.
Garda Niamh Bergin told the court last Wednesday that she responded to a report of a traffic accident at 6.20am, and came upon a silver Mercedes crashed into the wall of Dundalk Tennis and Badminton Club.
She said the back number plate had been removed and she stopped two people who were walking away from the scene – one of whom, the defendant, had a number plate under his arm, which he threw into the Rampart river.
The gardai said the accused initially refused to give his name, or answer whether he was driving, but when he was cautioned a second time, he admitted driving but said he couldn’t give an exact time.
The other person – who was 16 at the time - told the court that he had met Eamon Bishop at a house party in his friend’s home. He said the defendant was driving at the time of the crash.
He strongly denied the defence barrister’s suggestion that he’d been behind the wheel – saying that was “ridiculous” and he didn’t know how to drive.
The teen also confirmed to Insp. Martin Beggy that he was treated for a left shoulder injury consistent with a seat belt injury.
Eamon Bishop told the court the teenager had been admiring his sports car and had asked to take it for a spin.
He said he got into the passenger seat and the 16-year-old ‘took off’. Mr. Bishop said the youth “was delighted to go for a spin in a €25,000 car.
He said he thought the car had clipped a kerb and described how it went straight across the green into a wall.
When he was asked why he had taken the number plate he said it was a company car for the family business and he was looking at losing his job and being thrown out of the house.
He said he’d pulled it off the car as he was hoping that he would get it moved in an hour or two and could get it repaired.
The defendant said as he was walking down the alleyway the teen told him that he did not have a driving licence – and it was at that stage he threw the registration plate in the water.
The defendant claimed that when he told the garda he was driving he meant he’d been driving earlier on.
During cross examination by Insp. Beggy, the accused said he was not aware the youth was only 16.
When the teenager’s seat-belt type injury was put to him Eamon Bishop replied that his own left forearm is scarred from where he hit the door of the passenger side and he added “As far as I’m aware he wasn’t wearing a seat belt.”
A defence witness who told the court the accused had called to his house around 5.30am, said he’d seen him get back into the Mercedes – on the passenger side.
The Defence barrister argued that there was clear evidence that his client wasn’t driving the vehicle at the time of the collision if the witness saw him get into the passenger seat before the car drove off.
However, Judge Flann Brennan said the only charge before him was failing to give information to the garda.
He said “My own view is Eamon Bishop was driving. I don’t accept his evidence. I think he was completely untruthful and had blamed somebody else.”
The judge added that he was satisfied even on the defendant’s own evidence that he didn’t give the information.
He said the explanation given – that he didn’t understand the garda’s question was “a ridiculous excuse”.
The judge said “He knew exactly what was going on.”
The court heard the defendant had one previous conviction and was disqualified from driving for two years when he was convicted of drink driving in November 2005.
He imposed a €1000 fine, but at the request of the defence said the accused could appeal in his own bond of €500.