22 Jan 2022

Longford man convicted of 'extraordinary' driving to appeal conviction

Longford Courthouse.

A man is appealing the severity of a conviction handed down at Longford District Court after he was found guilty of driving without reasonable consideration

A man found guilty of driving without reasonable consideration after attempting to carry out a u-turn on Main Street in Longford town during the middle of the day has launched an appeal against the sentence.

Thomas Gordon (63) Melview, Longford pleaded not guilty to the alleged incident at Main Street, Longford on December 5 2018 at a recent special sitting of Longford District Court.

He likewise pleaded not guilty to crossing a continuous white line at Cloonrallagh, Longford on the same date.

The long serving chartered accountant said he had been in town at his local Bank of Ireland branch when he decided to carry out the manoeuvre after meticulously checking both behind and in front of him for oncoming traffic.

“I had a clear view of the traffic up to the post office and I considered it was safe to do my u-turn and join the traffic in the left hand lane,” he said, adding he had carried out the same manoeuvre “many, many times” in the past.

Mr Gordon said one of the primary reasons behind his decision was due to his estimation that he had “six to seven car lengths” of room to complete the exercise.

“I was very considerate of other road users and I would not have done this manoeuvre is if I did not judge it to be safe,” he told presiding Judge Conal Gibbons.

The Longford man also insisted he was not in any way disrespectful to prosecuting Garda Tracey Shanley on the day after it emerged he had asked the Granard based officer if she had signed up to the force’s code of ethics.

In her direct evidence to the court, Garda Shanley said after stopping Mr Gordon, she was pressed about other issues about the organisation which have been at the centre of national public scrutiny.

“He also questioned me as to whether I read the reports from the various tribunals of inquiries in relation to garda corruption,” she told the court.

Garda Shanley said after initially refusing to hand over his licence, Mr Gordon did so before pulling away moments later and continuing on his journey.

She said due to the suddenness of his departure, Garda Shanley said she followed him out the road where Mr Gordon was attempting to wave her down at the junction which leads to Melview.

“I indicated I would pull in up the road where it was safe to do so as it was a junction,” she said.

“It was obvious he wanted to speak to me.”

Garda Shanley said at that stage Mr Gordon challenged her as to whether she had been following him before instructing him under Section 8 of the Public Order Act to move away or run the risk of being arrested.

As she did so and made her way back to the garda station, Garda Shanley said she observed Mr Gordon in her mirror carrying out another u-turn and crossing a continuous white line, resulting in two fixed charge penalty notices being issued for both alleged offences at Cloonrallagh and the preceding one at Main Street.

Defence counsel Gerard O’Sullivan BL, said his client had effectively been driving home following the earlier incident and had been pursuing him.

He said Mr Gordon denied the second offence also as there were “broken aspects” on the continuous white line his client was alleged to have crossed.

Garda Shanley rejected those claims however, saying in her opinion the white line was continuous, stating also she had been “on the verge” of arresting Mr Gordon for public order after the second incident.

Mr O’Sullivan said his client was insistent he hadn’t committed any offence either in relation to the earlier incident.

“He will say he had a good view to his left and didn’t see any car close enough to him that would have been in any danger,” he told the court.

Garda Shanley again denied the version put forward by Mr O’Sullivan, noting: “No, because I was close enough to be in danger.

“I was in control of my vehicle and I didn’t see him until he literally came out in front of me.”

Mr O’Sullivan, however, in a submission to Judge Gibbons asked the court to dismiss both charges before the court on the grounds of “common sense”.

Mr Gordon, for his part, maintained he had not been rude to Garda Shanley, describing his mood as “assertive, not forceful and not aggressive”.

In getting out of his car to take a photo of the garda vehicle and asking Garda Shanley for her official number, Mr Gordon said he believed his questioning of whether she had signed up to the organisation’s code of ethics to be within his rights and not “an unfair question to ask”.

Mr Gordon said he was also blameless for what happened moments later at Cloonrallagh.

After parking his car inside what he said were the broken yellow lines of a hard shoulder, Mr Gordon added: “The line is broken, I walk it three times a week. After I pulled in, I went to the garda car and we had a very short interaction.

“Again, I said ‘Are you following me?’”

Mr Gordon said after being told by Garda Shanley she was returning to Longford Garda Station, he continued on his short journey home in a safe fashion.

“I went back to the car to drive home and stayed within the yellow lines and turned right, not crossing a continuous white line and headed home,” he said.

“I am familiar with every inch of that road and have monitored some bad driving in that area quite frankly.”

Asked by Judge Gibbons why he had opted to carry out a u-turn on Main Street on the day, Mr Gordon said as he worked in the private sector, the other options open to him to drive home and back to his office were not in keeping with his desire to uphold “efficiency and productivity” levels, adding: “It could drive me out of business.”

He said it was never his intention to refrain from producing his driving licence, saying his own questioning of Garda Shanley was meant to be construed in a “diplomatic” and non confrontational manner.

Judge Gibbons, though, said he could not accept Mr Gordon’s stance when it came to the Main Street incident, describing the defendant’s driving at the time to be “completely wrong” and “extraordinary”.

He did, however, dismiss the second charge of crossing a continuous white line at Cloonrallagh, owing to a lack of sufficient evidence.

Judge Gibbons also spurned a request by Mr O’Sullivan on Mr Gordon’s behalf to consider sparing his client a criminal conviction under the Probation Act.

“Mr Gordon made a mistake and it behoves all of us to take care on the public highways,” replied Judge Gibbons.

He consequently convicted Mr Gordon of the Section 51A offence, fining him €100 and giving him three months to pay.

Judge Gibbons also fixed recognisances in the event of an appeal.

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