Cashel District Court
A man’s reasons as to why he took a car without the owner’s consent and failed to return it was labelled “fiction” at a special sitting of Cashel District Court.
Gary Cotter of 29 Ard Mhuileann, Mitchelstown, County Cork was before the court charged with the unauthorised taking of a vehicle without the consent of its owner John O’Donnell at Lyrefune, Ballyporeen on March 19, 2020.
Giving evidence, retired qualified mechanic Mr O’Donnell said he was at home in Ballyporeen when the defendant arrived unannounced looking for a car.
Mr O’Donnell told the court that he is retired 20 years but “tips away at the odd car”.
Mr O’Donnell told him that he hadn’t a car for sale, but the defendant then enquired about a 2004 Honda parked at his house, which he said would suit him.
Mr O’Donnell said he went into his house to get the car keys, as he planned to bring the defendant for a test drive.
Mr O’Donnell said he returned out with the keys and sat into the passenger seat as the defendant started the car.
“‘I’ll give it one spin up the road’,” Mr O’Donnell quoted the defendant.
Mr O’Donnell said he told the defendant that he couldn’t drive it without being accompanied by him in order to comply with the insurance cover.
Mr O’Donnell said the man who brought the defendant to his house, Leon Ryan, was parked outside his driveway and that it was “impossible” to get past him given where he was parked.
Mr O’Donnell said he went down to Mr Ryan and asked him to move his car so that they could get past him. Mr O’Donnell said the defendant then took off “like a shot” in the car and didn’t return with it.
Mr O’Donnell said he spent three to four days searching for the car and even made contact with the defendant's parents. He said the defendant made no attempt to contact him.
Mr O’Donnell said he was then informed by a friend that the car was seen parked up four to five miles away from his house. Mr O’Donnell said the car’s clutch had been burnt out, and that the car was left in an area where “you would never find it”.
Under cross examination from defence solicitor Aidan Leahy, Mr O’Donnell confirmed that the defendant bought two cars off him in the past.
Mr Leahy said Mr Ryan instructed that he had no conversation with Mr O’Donnell about moving his car, to which Mr O’Donnell argued to the contrary.
Mr O’Donnell refuted the solicitor’s argument that the defendant simply went for a test drive and the car broke down, reiterating that the defendant never returned back to his house.
Mr O’Donnell said he collected the car keys from the defendant’s mother before he sighted the car.
In reply to Superintendent Des Whelan, Mr O’Donnell said the clutch had been working perfectly and was “abused” by the defendant.
“A clutch doesn’t go like that,” Mr O’Donnell said.
The defendant said that a price of €350 for the car was discussed, and that Mr O’Donnell handed him the keys and he took it for a test drive.
The defendant said the car stalled when he came to a hill. He left the car roll down the hill before pushing it off the road into a gateway.
He said he then walked back to Mitchelstown to his mother’s house. He said he told his mother what happened, but that he had no phone to make contact with Mr O’Donnell.
He said he later sent Mr O’Donnell a message saying that the keys were in his mother’s house. He said he hasn’t had contact with Mr O’Donnell since then.
He said he went for test drives in the two cars he previously bought off Mr O’Donnell, and that the clutch went in one of them.
He said he was charged by gardaí but was never interviewed.
In reply to Superintendent Whelan, the defendant said Mr O’Donnell never got into the car with him and “just standing in the yard”.
He said Mr O’Donnell never had a conversation with Mr Ryan.
The defendant denied taking the car for a spin around the area. When he said it took him 10 to 15 minutes to drive four to five miles, Superintendent Whelan noted that he must have been driving 16km/h.
Superintendent Whelan questioned why the defendant hadn’t a phone, to which he said he wasn’t working.
Superintendent Whelan questioned whether the defendant had a receipt for the phone that was eventually purchased, to which he said he bought it off a friend.
The defendant said he doesn’t have a copy of the text he allegedly sent to Mr O’Donnell but that his mother “probably does”.
Superintendent Whelan questioned why the defendant hadn’t protested to the charge, to which the defendant said he was in “bad form”.
“You could have been flying around the country,” Superintendent Whelan said.
“It’s fiction what you are telling the court,” he added.
The defendant replied by saying he didn’t have transport to go back to Mr O’Donnell’s house and that he didn’t have his number. He said he later got Mr O’Donnell’s number from his father, and had to get ready to go to Galway the next day.
Mr Ryan told the court that he brought the defendant to Mr O’Donnell’s house, waited outside and moved out of the way so that the car could pass him.
He said he didn’t hear the conversation between the defendant and Mr O’Donnell.
Mr Ryan said he had no way of contacting the defendant, so he waited for 10 to 20 minutes for him to return in case the car wasn’t being purchased.
“‘I’m taking the car for a test drive. I’ll be back in a few minutes’,” Mr Ryan quoted the defendant.
Mr Ryan said he didn’t speak with the defendant that evening, and that he spoke with him two to three weeks later and was told by the defendant what he claimed had happened.
In reply to Judge Terence Finn, Mr Ryan said he saw the passing of the car keys from Mr O’Donnell to the defendant.
Mr Ryan confirmed he knew the purpose of going to Mr O’Donnell’s house, but that he didn’t know the type of car that the defendant was looking for.
The judge noted Mr O’Donnell’s evidence that the defendant arrived unannounced at his house.
Judge Finn questioned whether Mr Ryan had seen the defendant with money, to which he replied “yes”, and the quantity of money the defendant had.
“I have no knowledge of cars,” Mr Ryan replied.
Delivering his verdict, Judge Finn said the prosecution’s case is that the car was taken without consent. He said that had the car been returned and purchased it would not have been reported to gardaí.
Judge Finn said Mr O’Donnell had to go to both the defendant’s mother and father’s houses to get information about his car.
Judge Finn said the fact that Mr Ryan left the scene when the defendant didn’t return “speaks volumes”.
Judge Finn ordered the defendant to pay Mr O’Donnell €500 compensation for the car, which has since been crushed.
The defendant was also charged for driving without insurance at Shanrahan College, Clogheen dating back to June 25, 2019.
Sergeant Carol O’Leary said the defendant has 42 previous convictions, 27 of which were for road traffic offences including four for no insurance.
The judge banned the defendant from driving for a period of six years and imposed a €500 fine for driving without insurance.
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