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23 May 2022

Longford man cleared of careless driving

Longford Courthouse.

A man charged with careless driving has had his case dismissed following a lengthy hearing at last week’s sitting of Longford District Court.

A man charged with careless driving has had his case dismissed following a lengthy hearing at last week’s sitting of Longford District Court.

Joseph Stokes, with addresses at 2 Willow Park, Strokestown Road, Longford and 5 O'Connor Park, Longford, appeared before Judge Bernadette Owens on Tuesday last week.

Gda Philip Weafer told the court that he was on duty on Sunday, December 1, 2019, when he received reports of a crash on St Mel’s Road, Longford, at approximately 10.40pm.

“I attended the scene of a two car collision involving a blue Renault Megane driven by Denis Kane of St Mel’s Road and a silver Audi A4 driven by Joseph Stokes of 2 Willow Park, Longford,” said Gda Weafer.

There was “an extremely low, bright sun” that morning and that Gardaí found abrasions on the footpath and fresh rubber marks.

“We determined it came from one of the Audi’s wheels,” said Gda Weafer, “and there were marks on the Audi tyre.”

The court heard that the Audi collided with the Megane and mounted the footpath, travelling some distance from the point of impact.

Denis Kane, when giving evidence, explained that he and his wife had planned to go for a walk as she had recently had an operation and they wanted to get out of the house.

“I checked the two mirrors and saw a car a good distance away and I thought I had enough time so I pulled out on St Mel’s Road,” said Mr Kane, adding that he had travelled at least 40 yards from his house when “the next thing, a car hit the back of our car and ended up on the footpath”.

He told the court there was significant damage done to his vehicle, which had to be written off as a result.

Defence solicitor, Anthony Feeney, noted no damage had been done to the back of the car but damage had been done to the side of Mr Kane’s vehicle.

“Because his car was up on the footpath,” said Mr Kane.

“I put it to you that when you were pulling out, your car was impacted by Mr Stokes,” said Mr Feeney, noting that there was “no evidence to indicate careless driving”.

Inspector Paddy McGirl, for the state, suggested that Mr Stokes had been driving at speed when he collided with Mr Kane’s car.
“Nobody has given any evidence of speed,” said Judge Owens.

“There was damage to the vehicle,” Inspector McGirl objected.

“But nobody has given me that evidence,” said Judge Owens.

“Mr Kane outlined that the vehicle was written off and in the photographs, the damage is evident. The rear left axle is snapped. There’s significant damage to Mr Stokes’ car too which could not occur unless he was going at speed,” said Inspector McGirl.

“Even if Mr Kane had pulled out in front of him, he should have had time to stop. After impact, Mr Stokes’ car travelled a further 40 feet on the footpath.”

Accepting this, Judge Owens said that “it appears Mr Stokes does have a case to answer” and asked to hear his version of how the accident came about.

Mr Stokes explained that he was going to get a cup of coffee and was travelling at 35 or 40 kilometres per hour.

“I was travelling up St Mel’s Road when suddenly a car came out in front of me. I didn’t have time to brake or anything,” said Mr Stokes.

“Did you see Mr Kane’s car 40 yards ahead?” asked Mr Feeney.

“No, I wouldn’t have gone into the side of him if the car had been that far ahead of me,” said Mr Stokes.

“Did you observe him exiting from the parking space?” asked Inspector McGirl, to which Mr Stokes replied no.

“He stated he didn’t observe Mr Kane exiting the parking space, therefore he wasn’t driving with due care for other road users,” said Inspector McGirl in summary.

Mr Feeney disagreed, however, stating that his client was travelling along the road and that he had the right of way.

“It is not up to every road user to check on every stationary car. If we did that, we would all be driving at five kilometres per hour,” he argued.

After taking a brief recess to consider the evidence, Judge Owens decided against convicting Mr Stokes of careless driving.

“Mr Stokes did say he didn’t see Mr Kane pull out,” she said, “and while he was pulling out, Mr Kane acknowledged that he saw the other car coming and thought he had time to pull out when the safer thing would’ve been to wait.

“One thing that hasn’t been addressed is that the sun seems to have been very strong and that may have been a factor. Mr Kane, who lives there and knows the road, should have made some allowance for the fact that the sun may have been in Mr Stokes’ eyes.”

With that, she dismissed the case.

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