Saturday 21 September 2019

Garda who never sat driving test loses appeal over having no licence

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

A garda whose skills behind the wheel lead to the discovery that he had “never” sat a driving test, has lost an appeal against his conviction for using a fake driving license.

Ciaran Folan (46), of Lambstown Lane, Fethard-on-Sea, had pleaded not guilty to four counts related to the use of a driving licence at Lambstown Lane, Fethard-on-Sea, on February 13, 2009, knowing it to be a false instrument as well as knowingly using a document containing a false statement.

Folan was found guilty by a jury at Wexford Circuit Criminal Court and fined €3,000 by Judge Barry Hickson on December 13, 2013.

Dismissing an appeal appeal against his conviction today, the Court of Appeal stated that it had not been persuaded that Folan's trial was unsatisfactory or that the verdict was unsafe.

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Mr Justice George Birmingham said Folan, a native of Galway and a garda since 1999, had applied for and was placed onto a garda van driving course while stationed in the Wexford Division.

However, his driving skills and experience caused the instructor concern, the judge said.

Following an investigation, it emerged that Folan had not completed the Garda car driving course which was a prerequisite for admission onto the van driving course. Moreover, in order to take part in a Garda driving course, one had to have a category B driving license.

Folan indicated on a "driver history sheet" that he held the appropriate license. Contact was made with Galway County Council with a view to examining the original driving license file, but that file was not located.

Contact was made with the Road Safety Authority and with other sections of Galway County Council and it emerged that Folan had never applied for and had never taken a driving test and therefore could not have obtained a full driving license, the judge said.

Mr Justice Birmingham said Folan had submitted a certificate of competency issued by An Garda Siochanna in order to obtain a driving license, according to records at Galway County Council. However, "no valid certificate of competency could ever have issued".

It emerged that Folan's brother had been working in the Driver License Section of Galway County Council and it was he, Brendan Folan, "who had processed the application" at the time the license was issued, the judge said.

It was in the course of this investigation that Folan was asked by a Detective Inspector to produce a driving license at Fethard-on-Sea – giving rise to the first two counts on the indictment.

Folan's brother, Brendan Folan, was an employee of Galway County Council and his duties included issuing driving licenses. His County Council ID number appeared on key documentation in the Wexford trial, in particular the license produced by Ciaran Folan at Fethard-on-Sea.

Brendan Folan was charged in Galway with a number of offences including the forging of a driving license and an offence contrary to section 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The trial judge in Galway directed a not guilty verdict in respect of the forgery offence and he was ultimately acquitted of the corruption offence.

In his appeal against conviction, lawyers for Ciaran Folan submitted that the trial judge in Wexford erred in permitting the prosecution to proceed on counts 1 and 2 on the indictment in light of the trial judge's ruling in Galway.

Implicit in this argument, Mr Justice Birmingham said, was a belief that the Galway trial judge determined that the driving license issue was authentic.

However, Mr Justice Birmingham said the argument was “quite misconceived”. In the Court of Appeal's view it was “absolutely clear that the acquittal of Brendan Folan in Galway did not prevent the trial of Ciaran Folan proceeding in Wexford”.

Folan's lawyers also submitted that the Wexford trial judge erred in allowing counts 3 and 4 to be added to the indictment some three and a half years after the book of evidence had been served.

However, Mr Justice Birmingham said there was nothing to prevent the joinder of the additional charges. They were linked in certain respects. All involved a driving license and what were alleged to be false claims in relation to Folan's driving history.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice John Edwards and Mr Justice John Hedigan, said the court was not prepared to uphold any of Folan's grounds of appeal.

He said the court had not been persuaded that the trial was unsatisfactory or that the verdict was unsafe. The appeal was therefor dismissed.

Folan was not in court for the judgment.

Counts 1 and 2 related to the production by Folan of a driving license to Detective Inspector John Hunt at Fethard-on-sea, Co Wexford on February 13, 2009 on foot of a request that he produce a driving license.

Count 3 related to the completion of a driver history form required to be completed and submitted in order to be admitted to a garda driver training course.

This offence related to the period November 17, 2008 to November 21, 2008.

Count 4 related to documentation completed in the context of an application to transfer from Clifden Garda station to Wexford Garda Division.

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