Five-month sentence quashed because man should have been brought to court first
A MAN has had a five month jail sentence quashed arising out of an incident in which a car - which gardai believed he was driving - forced a patrol car to swerve to avoid a collision.
Patrick Quilligan had been jailed by the District Court in his absence for dangerous driving of a car allegedly involved in a late night attempted burglary and which garda say was driven by him because they saw him in the full glare of their headlights.
The High Court ruled the sentence should be quashed because he should have been brought before the District Court before he was jailed. Mr Justice Gerard Hogan adjourned making final orders in the matter to later this week.
The court heard gardai had to swerve to avoid being hit by the car they said was being driven by Mr Quilligan after it did a handbrake turn in the middle of the road and drove towards them in Carrigallen, Co Leitrim, on February 2012. The garda car went into a ditch and a tyre was punctured making it unable to follow the suspect vehicle which sped away.
Mr Quilligan, who has had a number of addresses, the last of which was in Rathangan, Co Kildare, claimed he was not the man seen by officers driving the car.
He also said had not received a number of District Court date notifications sent out to different addresses.
Gardai believed he lived at at least one of these addresses but he said he was "on the road travelling", Mr Justice Hogan noted when he quashed the five month jail sentence and four-year driving ban imposed on him on February 19, 2013, at Carrick-on-Shannon District Court.
Mr Justice Hogan said while the District Court was entitled to deal with the case in his absence where the judge had in mind a brief custodial sentence, five months in jail is a significant sentence and requires different considerations by the court.
Prior to sentencing, the District Judge should have either adjourned the case or issued a bench warrant to compel Mr Quilligan's attendance, he said.