Healy Eames fined €1,850 for driving car without tax
A JUDGE who fined Senator Fidelma Healy Eames €1,850 for four road traffic offences has described the case as "unprecedented" .
Judge Mary Fahy also commented on a fifth charge of making a false declaration which was withdrawn by the State, describing it as the most serious charge.
"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 However, the State has withdrawn that charge which in my view was the most serious charge," she said.
Ms Healy Eames, of Maree, Oranmore, Co Galway, admitted three charges of driving without tax and one further charge of failure to display a tax disc at Galway District Court yesterday.
The senator, who was not in court, was fined €1,850 in total for driving her Mercedes car without tax for more than six months despite two previous summonses on the matter.
Judge Fahy said she had imposed the hefty fines because Ms Healy Eames had been given "ample opportunity to comply" with the summonses.
The judge said anyone could find themselves in a situation where they fell behind in their car tax but said that in this case the offence was continuous.
"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.
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 March 10 Ms Healy Eames was spotted 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 fixed charge penalty which was subsequently paid.
When he checked her car tax on the Garda 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 the Pulse system he discovered it was still untaxed. A second summons was issued.
Gda 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.
However, when the garda contacted the Galway Motor Tax office the following day he discovered that arrears owed on the vehicle had only been paid for May.
Arrears were not paid for the outstanding three months of February, March and April until October.
Colman Sherry, defending, 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."