Wednesday 16 April 2014

Judge says colleague’s decision to strike out case after garda witness failed to travel was ‘not appropriate’

A JUDGE has ruled that another judge had no power to strike out a case because a garda witness failed to travel from Sligo to Dublin for the sentencing.

Last November Judge Martin Nolan struck out the case when he was told that the garda was on leave and couldn't travel from Sligo to Dublin.

Jason Tilbury (27) of Delaford Lawns, Knocklyon, Dublin had pleaded guilty the previous month at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the possession of a stolen quad bike and trailer in Knocklyon on April 10, 2011.

Today Fiona Murphy BL, prosecuting, said that the Circuit Court does not have the same power to dismiss cases that the lower District court has.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring agreed that Judge Nolan’s decision to strike out the case was not appropriate.

After hearing evidence of the offence she imposed a ten month suspended sentence on condition that Tilbury keep the peace for that time and pay €1,000 to the carer’s association.

The court heard that Tilbury’s mother is very sick. He has plans to travel to New Zealand to work as a labourer but will return to Ireland to see her. He has two previous convictions, both for drunk driving.

Kieran Kelly BL, defending, said his client should have realised there was something wrong when he was offered the trailer and quad bike for €500. The two items are worth a total of €7,000.

When the case came before Judge Nolan last November the judge said he took a dim view if a garda witness was told she was required in court and failed to attend.

He said that if he agreed to adjourn the case it would give “an indication that guards don’t have to attend if it doesn’t suit them”.

He added: “That might sound harsh but for the proper running of this court I am going to strike out the case against Mr Tilbury. It is with some reluctance.”

He said that his court cannot be run efficiently if he allows this to go on.

Judge Ring said she understood the frustration that her colleague had on the day and she said that judges should have the power to ultimately penalise the prosecution if they fail to attend.

But she said she didn’t think she had that power. She said: “The court is limited in how it proceeds. This is in conflict with the ability of this and every court to monitor and protect its own procedures”.

She said she had looked for any statutory or regulatory powers which the Circuit Court might have but concluded that there was nothing equivalent to those which the District Court has.

She said this was probably because the Circuit Court dealt with more serious, indictable, offences.

The court heard that Tilbury comes from a respectable family and planned to find work in New Zealand so that he could continue to pay the mortgage on his home.

Judge Ring said he should have walked away from the “too good to be true” deal was offered to him.

She said a custodial sentence would lead to the loss of his home and that she didn’t plan to stand in the way of him going to New Zealand when he couldn’t find work here.




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