Friday 14 December 2018

'Extraordinary' that teen accused of dangerous driving €35k car is seeking legal aid, judge tells court

Dublin Children's Court
Dublin Children's Court

Tom Tuite

A judge has described as extraordinary that the State was being asked to grant free legal aid to fund the defence of a youth accused of dangerous driving in his €35,000 car.

The 17-year-old boy appeared at the Dublin Children’s Court where Judge John O’Connor deferred ruling on whether the State will pay his legal expenses.

The boy, who cannot be named because he is a minor, is accused of dangerous driving in a ‘171-reg car and having no insurance at the Long Mile Road in Dublin 12 on April 21 last.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charge and the case will go to a full hearing next month.

His barrister Damian McKeone said there was an application for legal aid but gardai objected citing the fact that the teenager was the registered owner of a high-powered car worth €35,000. It was later registered again in the name of the teen’s father.

Mr McKeone said he was making the application on the principle that the youth is still a child.

Judge O’Connor said he knew the car could been bought on finance but if had been paid for with cash then maybe the Revenue Commissioners should be involved in the event there was a money laundering issue.

Judge O’Connor said he wanted to know how they were not able to to afford legal aid when the boy had a car worth €35,000.

The teen’s mother told the court the car was a gift to her son from his father but the teenager “was not listening to his dad and his dad took the car off him because his behaviour was bad”.

The defence barrister said the teenager is working and earning €200 a week. He lives with his businessman father but was accompanied to the hearing by his mother who has no income.

He said it is unusual for objections to legal aid being made in the juvenile court and the teen was from a Traveller background. Mr McKeone argued that it was inappropriate for gardai to object based on circumstantial evidence.

Judge O’Connor said gardai had to bring it to his attention and he had an obligation in relation to public money.

The defence said the boy’s father, who was not present for the hearing, does not want to be involved.

Judge O’Connor said he did not want a child to be unrepresented in court but it was a case where a child had been given an incredible gift. He said he would like the father in court and parents were obliged to attend the proceedings.

“Then we could sort out who is paying, the State or him,” he said and he later added that, “I would be happy if the father comes in and gives sworn evidence”.

“I don’t what him [the boy] to be without a solicitor or the solicitor to feel they will not be paid,” he said.

In relation to the ownership of the car he commented, “If that is the case it seems extraordinary for the State to be asked pay”. He said he was not refusing the application but would adjourn ruling on that issue.

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