A man has been disqualified from driving for a total of 20 years after he appeared before Judge Seamus Hughes, charged with a number of traffic offences.
Artur Hauf, 28 Shannon Grove, Ballyleague, Roscommon was charged with driving while disqualified, no insurance, and failure to remain at the scene of a collision.
Edel McDermott, who was driving the other vehicle involved in the crash explained that she had pulled out onto the main road and was hit by a car.
“I was heading to work from Lanesboro to Athlone and taking a turn from a by-road. As I was turning onto the road, a car came and hit my car,” she said.
“I asked him where he came from, because it was a dark morning and I didn’t see him. He had no lights on. He was heading in the direction of Ballymahon.
“It was a dark morning on 13th December 2018. It was raining and visibility was poor but most cars had lights. That car didn’t,” she continued.
“It was 8.45am and I saw the driver just as I was approaching the white line. After the collision, I was in shock. I wasn’t sure what happened because the airbags had been deployed.
“I asked him where he came from. I couldn’t hear what he said, he was shouting at me, then he reversed down the road I came from.
“A witness came out of another car and said he had called the guards. My car was in bits and wouldn’t move. He (the accused) was anxious to get away. I asked him to stay until the guards came.
“He took the insurance disc from his car and handed it to me and gave me his number. He got into his car and reversed into an ESB pole, then drove down the road I had come from.
“I had looked in the windows of the car because he said something about kids and I was worried they were in the car, but there was nobody else in that car. He was driving the car.”
When asked by Inspector Frank Finn if she had ever seen the man before, Ms McDermott replied that she had not.
When asked if she could point him out in the courtroom, Ms McDermotte pointed to Mr Hauf.
When solicitor for the defence, Mark Cooney, got up to cross-examine the witness, he was promptly interrupted by Judge Hughes who said: “I’m not interested in who was at fault here. I’m only interested in who was driving.”
“May I just say, in my 11 years on the bench, you’re the best witness I’ve ever come across,” he added to Ms McDermott before she left the witness box.
Garda Tom Killion was on duty on the day of the incident and was called by the prosecution to give evidence.
“I was on duty and received a call five minutes after it happened,” he told the court.
“I arrived and found the last witness at the scene. Her car was damaged at the front and the airbags had been impacted. The witness was shaken and there was an ambulance on the scene.”
Gda Killion quickly found out that the registered owner of the other car was a Louisa Goulda, the wife of Artur Hauf.
“I called up to the registered address shortly after 9am,” he explained.
“The car was outside and was damaged to the front and back. I knocked on the door and Mr Hauf answered. I asked him about the accident. He said he wasn’t driving and that his wife was. But the witness described a man driving. He said he couldn’t drive because he was disqualified.”
“Is he wise for fighting this? Because I have the option of sending him to prison,” Judge Hughes noted as he listened to the evidence.
Gda Killion explained that both Ms McDermott’s and Mr Goulda’s vehicles were seized for examination.
He added that, when he initially questioned Ms Goulda, she had said that she wasn’t driving that day but, when he returned to take statements from both the defendant and his wife, Mr Hauf outlined that he was a passenger in the car and that there were children in the car, while Ms Goulda outlined that she was driving.
Ms Goulda was at a hospital appointment the morning of the accident when Gda Killion first called to the house.
When Ms Goulda was called to give evidence, she explained that the couple have five children, one of which has autism, and said that she and her husband were bringing three of the children to school at the time of the accident.
“You’re saying that, at the time of the accident, you were driving. He was in the front seat and three kids were in the back,” Judge Hughes clarified. Ms Goulda agreed.
When Inspector Finn asked Ms Goulda to describe what the weather had been like on that morning, she said that it was raining but it wasn’t that dark.
She explained that Gda Killion came to her house the next day and asked her what had happened.
“He asked you who was driving and you said you hadn’t been,” said Inspector Finn.
“I told him I was,” Ms Goulda replied.
“Gda Killion said you said you weren’t driving,” said Inspector Finn.
“I said I was driving,” Ms Goulda objected.
“The garda said you said your husband was driving. Did you go to a hospital appointment that day?” Judge Hughes asked, to which Ms Goulda replied yes.
“You brought the children to school. So why did your husband go with you?” Judge Hughes asked.
“Sometimes we go shopping after,” said Ms Goulda.
“But you went to Galway for a hospital appointment. How did you go?” Judge Hughes pressed.
“With my friend,” Ms Goulda replied.
“Where did she get you from?” asked Judge Hughes.
“My house,” said Ms Goulda.
“What time was your appointment?” asked Inspector Finn
“I can’t remember,” said Ms Goulda
“What time did you leave?” Inspector Finn asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied.
When asked what had happened that morning, Ms Goulda explained that Mr Hauf spoke to the driver of the other car, while she went to the kids because the child who has autism was screaming.
“What happened then?” asked InspectorFinn.
“We went back home. My husband tried to help the woman,” Ms Goulda explained.
“He gave her his phone number and called an ambulance. He drove home because I have a boy with autism and he was screaming and the baby was crying.”
The court heard that, while Mr Hauf didn’t stay long enough to get Ms McDermott’s details, they did make a claim on her insurance for the damage to the car.
“When was your husband disqualified?” Judge Hughes asked Ms Goulda.
He was informed by the prosecution that the disqualification dated back to 2017.
“So when you asked him to drive home, you knew he was disqualified,” said Judge Hughes to Ms Goulda.
“Why didn’t you drive home if he was disqualified? He had huge motive to hide the fact he was driving. He’s facing prison.”
“He wasn’t driving. I told him to take me home,” Ms Goulda replied.
“Even if you were in the car, you were a passenger,” Judge Hughes snapped.
“I have no doubt whatsoever he was driving the car. Ms McDermott gave her evidence very clearly and it was very impressive. She’s an example of what everyone should do at the scene of a crash. She got his details, she called the guards, she tried to make him wait for the guards. I’m convicting him.”
“He gave his name, telephone number and details,” Mr Cooney objected on behalf of the defence.
“He failed to remain at the scene,” said Judge Hughes.
Mr Hauf, the prosecution revealed, had 21 previous convictions - ten of which were for road traffic offences.
The most recent conviction was March 2017 in Roscommon District Court, where he was charged with having no insurance and not having a seatbelt. He received a four month sentence, suspended for two years, and was disqualified for 15 years.
In October 2013 at Athlone District Court, he was convicted for having no insurance and disqualified for two years.
“This was an absolutely fabricated defence,” said an irritated Judge Hughes.
“He was driving and he wanted to avoid detection and instead of putting his hands up, he got his wife to say she was driving.
“I have to compliment the Garda on his speedy investigation. But I can’t allow people to come in here and defend such spurious cases.”
With that, Judge Hughes sentenced Mr Hauf to four months in prison for having no insurance and disqualified him for 20 years.
For failure to remain at the scene, Judge Hughes disqualified Mr Hauf for five years concurrent and sentenced him to four months concurrent.
And for driving while disqualified, Mr Hauf was sentenced to one month concurrent and disqualified for 20 years, concurrent.