Senator fined for repeatedly driving without road tax
SENATOR Fidelma Healy Eames has been fined €1,850 after pleading guilty to four road traffic offences.
The senator, from Maree, Oranmore in Galway, pleaded guilty at Galway District Court today to three changes of driving without tax and one further charge of failure to display a tax disc.
A fifth charge of making a false declaration was withdrawn by the State. This charge had been described by Judge Mary Fahy as the most serious.
Ms Healy Eames did not appear in court for the hearing but conveyed through her solicitor Colman Sherry that she was deeply remorseful.
The charges related to three incidents ranging from March to July of this year where Ms Healy Eames was observed driving without tax. She was stopped by Garda Garrett Cafferkey on the final occasion in July and her car was impounded.
The court heard that Ms Healy Eames was first detected on March 10 using a mobile phone while driving her Mercedes in Oranmore, Co Galway. On that occasion, Garda Cafferkey did not stop Ms Healy Eames but issued a fix change penalty which was subsequently paid.
When he checked her car tax on the Pulse system later that morning, he discovered it had expired on January 1, 2012, and a summons was issued on the matter.
On June 23, Gda Cafferkey observed Ms Healy Eames driving in Seafield, Maree. When he later checked the car on Pulse, he discovered it was still untaxed. A second summons was issued.
Garda Cafferkey gave evidence that on July 2, at Moneenageisha in Galway city, he witnessed Ms Healy Eames driving and checked the tax status of the car on the in-car system.
On discovering that the car remained untaxed, he stopped the Senator and seized the car.
The court heard that when questioned, Ms Healy Eames told Gda Cafferkey that she had planned to sell the car and it had been off the road.
The garda then contacted the Galway Motor Tax office the following day and discovered the vehicle had been back-taxed for May. However, arrears were not paid for the outstanding three months of February, March and April until October.
A charge of false declaration against Ms Healy Eames was later withdrawn by the State.
Judge Fahy described the case as "unprecedented" adding; "A declaration was made to say the car was off the road but the car was not off the road. However, the State has withdrawn that charge which in my view was the most serious charge."
"The situation is that this lady continued to drive a Mercedes car while fully employed and in receipt of a good salary from the State and was not paying her car tax," she added.
Defence solicitor Colman Sherry said his client was "extremely contrite" but stressed there had been no loss to the State.
In handing down the fines, Judge Fahy said; "Her solicitor says she's remorseful but the court has to take into account that this was continuous."
Ms Healy Eames was fined a total of €1,850 for the four summonses after Judge Fahy said her rationale for the fines was that the "driver had ample opportunity to comply".