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28 Jan 2022

Longford taxi driver who transported drugs weekly from Dublin to Longford loses appeal for renewal of licence

'Taxi drivers are in a position of extreme trust within the community, so it was a matter of public safety' - Chief Supt Tony Healy

Longford taxi driver who transported drugs weekly from Dublin to Longford loses appeal for renewal of licence

A Longford taxi driver who allegedly transported drugs from Dublin to Longford once a week for a period of ten months has been refused the renewal of his taxi licence.

Charles James Carr, with an address at MacEoin Park, Longford, appeared before Judge Seamus Hughes at Longford District Court last week to appeal the refusal.

Inspector Paddy McGirl, for the state, explained that the garda objection was based solely on Section 10(2)(a) of the Taxi Regulation Act of 2013, which deals with whether the applicant is of good character.

Mr Carr was also facing two other charges for possession of drugs with intent to distribute. Both of those charges have been adjourned to May 11, pending a certificate of analysis.

Solicitor for the accused, John Quinn, requested that restrictions be placed on the media in the reporting of the case. Judge Hughes, however, said that he would not be prohibiting the press from reporting the appeal.

“The Circuit Court Judge is well capable of giving him a fair trial. I’m not restricting the press. I’m giving full reportage,” he said.

Giving evidence, Gda Brian Carroll of Longford Garda Station, explained that on July 15, 2020, at 8.05pm, gardaí were conducting an intelligence-led operation at Shroid, Longford, and stopped a vehicle, which was driven by the accused.

Mr Carr gave gardaí his name and address and, when asked if there was anything in his car, he admitted that there was a package on the back seat. Gardaí conducted a search of the vehicle and recovered the package.

“It contained what we believe to be a large quantity of drugs - cannabis and suspected cocaine. We arrested him and conveyed him to Roscommon Garda Station where he was interviewed and certain admissions were made,” said Gda Carroll.

When gardaí inspected the package, they discovered a vacuum-packed bag containing one kilo of cannabis and a large quantity of white powder which they suspected to be cocaine in a separate plastic bag.

The estimated value of the illegal drugs was €20,000 worth of cannabis and €30,000 worth of cocaine.

“In the interview, he admitted he’d travelled to Dublin on a number of occasions over a period of eight to ten months He said he’d travelled once weekly or a couple of times on the odd week,” said Gda Carr.

He refused to tell us who he visited or who he gave the package to but admitted he drove to Longford and delivered the packages to different parts of Longford town and received money in return.”

Mr Carr was receiving between €200 and €400 for delivering the packages, Gda Carroll explained.

“When stopped on the side of the road, he had fifteen twenty euro notes, sixteen ten euro notes and nineteen five euro notes, amounting to €555,” he said.

When Judge Hughes asked if the notes were clean and crisp, Gda Carroll explained that they were worn and used notes and that Mr Carr had told them he had the money because he was a taxi driver.

Inspector McGirl asked if Mr Carr had made admissions regarding his own knowledge of what was in the car, and Gda Carroll said that the accused had indicated that he did know.

“He was asked if he knew what was in the package and he stated he knew it wasn’t sweets. He never stated that he knew it was drugs,” said Gda Carroll.

“Well, you don’t go to Dublin for sweets,” said Judge Hughes.

When asked by Inspector McGirl if Mr Carr had offered any explanation for his actions, Gda Carroll explained that he had “stated he was friendly with undesirable people and that they had contacted him”.

“He was told in the interview that if he was under threat, we could deal with that, but he wasn’t interested,” he added.

“You said this was an intelligence-led operation. So you didn’t pull this man over at random. You purposely pulled this car. You suspected he was bringing drugs from Dublin to this area,” said Judge Hughes.

“Yes, Judge,” said Gda Carroll.

Cross-examining the witness, Mr Quinn asked if Mr Carr had let Gda Carroll know that he was under threat.

“He stated that he was in fear,” Gda Carroll confirmed.

“Did he mention that there was a history of a person being seriously maimed or killed?” Mr Quinn asked.

“He stated he was friendly with a male who is now deceased,” said Gda Carroll, referring to a man of foreign nationality who had lived in Longford previously, and who had been murdered in Dublin approximately 18 months ago. The man, the court heard, had been driven around in Mr Carr’s taxi.

“That would suggest that he was under threat and in fear of giving up information,” said Mr Quinn.

“He did state that he didn’t want to give names because he was in fear,” Gda Carroll agreed.

“Did he tell you members of his family were threatened?” said Mr Quinn.

“That’ll all be great in the Circuit Court for the criminal trial,” Judge Hughes interrupted, “but that’s a criminal matter. If a person is the subject of fear, is he a suitable person to be able to have an independent business restored? Can he stand up to these people and be of good character?

“He is associated with people who are not of good character. The reality is you have a mountain to climb here, Mr Quinn.”

Mr Quinn explained that there was one further aspect that he wished to put to Gda Carroll in this hearing.

“In the course of the extensive interview, he told you he was initially not aware of what was going on, but unfortunately he got sucked into it and tried to get out, but his family were threatened,” he said.

“He mentioned he felt threatened, but he didn’t mention his family,” Gda Carroll replied.

Sgt Gerry Newton of Longford Garda Station gave evidence that an application was submitted on September 16, 2020, for the renewal of Mr Carr’s taxi licence.

“Each application is given careful consideration,” Sgt Newton explained, “as taxi drivers are in a position of trust. They’re people in authority, especially in a small community.

“I was aware of the incident in July and had grave concerns of the character of the applicant, so I sent it to the Chief Superintendent.”

However, Sgt Newton explained that gardaí had had no difficulties with the accused before this.

“Now that you’ve heard Garda Carroll’s evidence, do you consider him of good character?” asked Judge Hughes.

“Absolutely not,” Sgt Newton replied.

“This (drugs) is one aspect of your work that requires a huge amount of resources and causes widespread grief. It’s the heart of criminality in this country,” said Judge Hughes.

“I couldn’t agree more,” said Sgt Newton.

Chief Superintendent Tony Healy explained that he is the licencing authority in the district and that he refused Mr Carr’s application for the renewal of his taxi licence based on Section 10(2)(a) of the Taxi Regulation Act 2013.

When asked to outline his consideration and rationale for this decision, Chief Supt Healy explained that Mr Carr is facing a section 3 possession of drugs charge, as well as one count of possession of drugs with intent to distribute under section 15 of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

“The value of drugs was in the region of €50,000, which is a substantial amount of illegal drugs,” he said.

“I considered the admission that his involvement was over a period of ten months, that he had received payment and that he was distributing drugs to a number of addresses.

“I asked Mr Carr to make representations regarding any reason why I should not refuse the licence and he made admissions to me that it was a once-off and wouldn’t happen again,” he added.

“I did not deem him of suitable character. Taxi drivers are in a position of extreme trust within the community. They interact with the public on a daily basis, so it was a matter of public safety.”

Mr Quinn, asked Chief Supt Healy if it had come to his notice that the accused was under intimidation.

“I consulted with the Superintendent and Inspector in Longford and it came out that he did not cooperate with the investigation that would lead us to the discovery of who was supplying the drugs,” said Chief Supt Healy.

“But that was because of fear and intimidation,” said Mr Quinn.

“That was balanced by the fact that he received sums of money for doing it,” Chief Supt Healy replied.

“But before those ten months, there was no issue with Mr Carr,” said Mr Quinn.

“None,” the Chief Supt replied.

“Somebody was killed over this and then there were threats made to him,” said Mr Quinn.

“I’d imagine you’re making a suggestion loaded with a lot more intelligence than the Chief Superintendent has received,” said Judge Hughes.

“You’re saying that man that was murdered was part of a gang and now your client is involved too.”

“Indirectly, yes,” said Mr Quinn.

“But if you lie down with dogs, you’ll rise with fleas,” said Judge Hughes.

Mr Quinn replied that his client’s involvement was an “involuntary association”.

“You’re not a good person, Mr Carr. It would be extremely surprising for the vast majority of Longford to hear of a man of your age involved in this,” said Judge Hughes, addressing the accused.

“You’ve made limited admissions to gardaí but nobody has ever told me where they get their drugs from because they’re all living in fear. It’s always the same thing. But if you get involved in this, you’re living in the underworld with people who have no respect for human life and who don’t care about their customers.

“You’re not a person of good character. You got involved and you did it for money. You’re going to pay the ultimate price of losing the entitlement to make a living as a taxi driver. You’re 67 years old. Your working life is expired.”

Mr Carr, addressing Judge Hughes, explained that he has been a taxi driver for 33 years and has never been in trouble in his life.

“I got caught up in something I couldn’t get out of,” he said.

“That’s a very convenient line to use,” said Judge Hughes, “It’s the consistent line that everyone uses. If you were in fear, you could have confidentially told Gda Carroll and he wouldn’t go shouting it around town.”

“I was just worried for my family. I do an awful lot of charity work,” Mr Carr began.

“No,” Judge Hughes interrupted, “I’m giving you no sympathy. With your drug distribution, you have caused untold grief to mothers and fathers who are trying to keep their children off drugs.

“But you’re being used and abused. You’re on the last rung of the ladder. You now are going out of business and you will be replaced.

“I’m not going to start giving you a lecture because I’m not qualified to give you a lecture. But this is your appeal and you’ve lost it,” he concluded.

The criminal charges Mr Carr is facing will come back before Longford District Court on May 11, 2021, when DPP directions will be available.

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