05 Dec 2021

Judge throws out no insurance charge after Ballymahon episode

Longford Courthouse.

A judge last week dismissed a case of no insurance taken against a South African man following an incident in Ballymahon in 2017.

A South African father of three has been cleared of driving with no insurance after efforts to secure his former employer’s attendance at court proved unsuccessful.

Solicitor Marie Conway said she had attempted on repeated occasions to secure the attendance of a company director from her client Gerard Elford’s previous employers following an incident at Main Street, Ballymahon, Co Longford on September 12 2017.

Mr Elford, of Main Street, Lanesboro, was later charged after a woman contacted Ballymahon Garda Station shortly after 4pm on the day in question to say her car had been hit by another vehicle during what was described as 'rush hour traffic'.

Ms Conway, in her cross examination of prosecuting Garda Jerome Tully, insisted conditions were not overly favourable due to heavy rain and the density of traffic on the road.

She said Mr Elford admitted hitting the complainant’s car but maintained the damage caused for 'very nominal'.
Garda Tully said after the complaint was lodged, he contacted the company concerned which resulted in Mr Elford calling into the station sometime later.

A lawful demand was made for Mr Elford’s driving licence and insurance, he said, the upshot of which led to a summons being issued.

Ms Conway, who herself took the stand, said she had endeavoured on a number of occasions since last July to provide evidence of insurance.

Following a brief exchange between Judge Conal Gibbons and the State over whether Mr Elford was insured on the day, the prosecution eventually accepted the defendant had been acting in a work capacity at the time, leading to the no insurance charge being struck out.

An accompanying Section 69 failure to produce insurance charge was likewise thrown out, leaving a sole driving without due care and attention charge before the court.

In mitigation, Ms Conway said Mr Elford had only moved to Ireland the year preceding the incident with his wife and three young children.

“He had never lived in Ireland and didn’t really appreciate how difficult it would be for him to work here,” she said.

One of his main dilemmas, she added, was the fact he had a South African driving licence and not an Irish one.

She said Mr Elford was in the process of addressing those concerns and was due to sit his practical driving test tomorrow (last Wednesday).

“He has not been able to secure employment since losing his job and it has been very difficult for his family,” she continued.

“Since being let go, he has been doing some online courses with a view to teaching English but he has been unable to get work.

In granting legal aid to Mr Elford, Judge Gibbons fined Mr Elford €100, giving him four months to pay.

He also fixed recognisances to the sum of €100 in the event of Mr Elford lodging an appeal to his conviction.

All other summonses were struck out.

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