Multi-millionaire bachelor farmer (82) has case dismissed after telling judge 'seat belt saved my life'

JJ McCabe, Carnelly House, Clarecastle,Co Clare. (File Pic).
JJ McCabe, Carnelly House, Clarecastle,Co Clare. (File Pic).

Gordon Deegan

Colourful multi-millionaire bachelor farmer, John Joseph McCabe (82) has beaten a seat belt rap from the Garda traffic corps after telling a judge that wearing a seat-belt is sacrosanct to him after saving his life in Portugal.

At Ennis District Court, Judge Patrick Durcan dismissed a Garda prosecution against Mr McCabe of Skehanagh, Clarecastle over the alleged non-wearing of a seat belt last August.

Judge Durcan said that Mr McCabe’s “very definite view” that he was wearing a seatbelt on August 4 last at Skehanagh had placed a slight doubt in his mind on the State case and as a result he had to dismiss the charge.

So eager was Mr McCabe to give his evidence that he took up position and sat down in the witness box while Judge Durcan was hearing the facts in the previous case before him.

After Judge Durcan dismissed the prosecution against him, Mr McCabe informed the judge “I found a bank card here on the floor here” and handed the bank card over to the court registrar.

Judge Durcan commented: “You are very good Mr McCabe, the dismissal was very justified” to laughter in the court.

During the Celtic Tiger era, Mr McCabe scooped the largest amount of any land deal in Clare when he sold 48 acres of land for €18.8m to a Galway developer, Stephen Harris in 2005.

However, Mr Harris subsequently failed to secure planning permission for a €50m retail park on the lands which are prone to flooding.

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In his evidence, Garda Brian O’Callaghan said that on Friday, August 4 last at 2.32pm at Skehanagh, Clarecastle, he observed Mr McCabe driving his 07 CE registered silver Toyota Hilux without wearing a seat-belt.

Garda O’Callaghan said that he then saw Mr McCabe grapple with the belt causing the jeep to zig zag along the road.

Garda O’Callaghan said that he stopped and spoke to Mr McCabe and by this time he had the seat belt fastened.

Garda O’Callaghan said that Mr McCabe “was irate throughout my dealings with him”.

In his sworn evidence, Mr McCabe said: “I had my seat-belt on. I am most emphatic about that because a seat belt saved my life. A seat belt is sacrosanct to me because it helped me survive a hit on the Continent in Portugal. The seat-belt burned right from my shoulder and across my chest and it stamped in my mind the importance of a seat belt.

He said: “It gave me a new lease of life after and I treasure my survival. On that basis, I am an old man and ever since, I make sure that I wear a seat belt.”

“I am 82 years and the seat belt is a major factor that I have survived to this age.”

In response, Judge Durcan said: “82? You don’t look 62.”

Mr McCabe said that he disagreed with Garda O’Callaghan’s evidence.

In summing up, Judge Durcan said: “I have heard two versions of this matter. I hold Garda O’Callaghan in the height of regard as a member of the Gardai who sees things directly and fairly. 

“I have also heard Mr McCabe’s story and you have a very definite view on that and putting the two stories together it creates a little doubt in my mind and when there is a little doubt in mind, you, Mr McCabe have to get the benefit of it."

He added: “And while I am in any way not doubting what Garda O’Callaghan has had to say, I have to say that you have brought a little doubt into my mind and I am dismissing the charge.”

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