Longford solicitor suggests speed van operator mistook female driver for a man

“Did the lady have a beard?” speed van operator is asked

Liam Cosgrove

Reporter:

Liam Cosgrove

Email:

liam.cosgrove@longfordleader.ie

Six months in prison for Leitrim man who stole from a church

A sitting of Longford District Court heard how a speed van operator might have mistaken the accused for a man

A Longford solicitor’s light hearted attempts to clear the name of his client for speeding in Longford earlier this year almost backfired when suggesting a speed van operator may have mistaken her for a man.

Michelle Baxter, 102 College Park, Longford was charged with speeding on the R198 at Aghadegnan, Longford on April 13 2017.

At last week’s District Court sitting it emerged she had in fact nominated her step brother as the driver of the car on the day of the alleged offence.

In defence, Frank Gearty asked speed van operator Dean Smith if he could determine the sex of the driver of the car.

“I can’t say if it was a man or a woman,” replied Mr Smith.

“The picture I have is too dark.”

Glancing briefly at Ms Baxter’s step brother standing close by, Mr Gearty asked Mr Smith: “Did the lady have a beard?”

A large body of those watching on in the courtroom struggled to hide their amusement, something which prompted Judge Seamus Hughes to playfully suggest:

“I hope the Women’s Council of Ireland don’t read that comment.”

Mr Gearty appeared to heed that cautionary advice by indicating he didn’t mean to cause any offence.
“You have to be so careful,” he admitted.

As he returned to his defence of Ms Baxter, Mr Gearty said his client had indeed nominated her step brother but it had fallen outside the 65 day timeframe in which to do so.

Her step brother, whose name was not disclosed at the court sitting, insisted he was fully insured to drive the vehicle in question.

He added Ms Baxter was no longer residing in the country and only learned of the incident during a brief visit home.

“She’s in the US. She came back and seen the letter at home and gave me the notice.

“It (the car) was here for me to sell it for her,” he explained.

The man added the car was sold on for €2,500 before a copy of the nomination form was handed into Judge Seamus Hughes.

However, questions were soon directed the way of the man and Mr Gearty when Judge Hughes asked why the form had been signed by a ‘Michael Baxter’ as opposed to the defendant, Michelle Baxter.

“Why did she sign it Michael Baxter?” Judge Hughes asked.

“It’s as clear as day and it looks like a man’s signature. It doesn’t look like the female hand.”

Passing the document to Mr Gearty, he accepted Judge Hughes’ inference, remarking: “It’s actually signed Micheal. It certainly looks like a male(‘s signature).”

In an entertaining twist, Judge Hughes asked Mr Gearty to pass the transcript to his colleague, Brid Mimnagh who was sitting in the next row.

“Oh, it’s definitely a man,” she quipped, trying intensely to maintain a straight face.

“It’s (writing) not neat and tidy.”

Judge Hughes supported that view, issuing Ms Baxter with a €175 fine, giving her three months to pay.