Tuesday 23 July 2019

'I didn't know I was going that fast' - Conor McGregor handed €1,000 fine and six-month driving ban for speeding

MMA star was caught driving 154kph in a 100kph zone

Conor McGregor pictured arriving at Naas District Court today.
Conor McGregor pictured arriving at Naas District Court today. PIC COLIN O’RIORDAN
Conor McGregor is mobbed by Press and Public as he left Naas District Court today. PIC COLIN O’RIORDAN
Conor McGregor arrives at Naas District Court in Co Kildare, where he is facing a speeding charge. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday November 28, 2018. See PA story COURTS McGregor. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

MMA champion Conor McGregor has been banned from driving for six months and fined €1,000 for speeding.

MMA champion Conor McGregor has been banned from driving for six months and fined €1,000 for speeding.

The UFC star (30) apologised in court, saying “I didn’t know I was going that fast”, before Judge Desmond Zaidan handed down the disqualification and fine.

McGregor was caught driving at 154kph in a 100kph zone on the N7 in Co Kildare in the incident last year, and failed to pay the fixed penalty fine due to an administrative error, Naas District Court heard.

Putting him off the road, Judge Zaidan noted he had 12 previous motoring convictions and said McGregor was fortunate he was not charged with a more serious offence.

McGregor, with a given address at Laraghcon, Lucan pleaded guilty to breaking the speed limit at Blackchurch on the N7, Kill, Co Kildare on October 11, 2017.

He had also been accused of three other motoring offences - driving without a licence, and failing to produce a driving licence either on the spot, or within 10 days at a garda station.

However, these summonses were withdrawn by the prosecution and the judge struck them out after hearing McGregor’s licence was in order.

Today, McGregor’s black BMW pulled up outside Naas Courthouse at around 1.45pm, he got out and walked briskly through blustery weather to the front door, greeting assembled press photographers with “hello” as he passed.

Wearing a blue and grey suit, white shirt and blue tie, he stood at the doorway in the courtroom, smiling and occasionally chatting with people as he waited for his case to be called.

He then came forward and stood behind his solicitor Graham Kenny while his case was dealt with by Judge Zaidan.

Garda Sgt Michael Keevans gave evidence that he stopped McGregor at 10.57pm as the accused was driving in moderate to light traffic and good weather conditions.

He was detected driving at 154 kph in a 100kph zone.

McGregor gave his parents’ address at Laraghcon as he could not remember his own address in the K Club, Sgt Keevans said.

“During the course of my dealings with him I found him to be polite and he also apologised for the offence,” Sgt Keevans said.

McGregor was issued with a fixed charge penalty notice which was not paid.

Sgt Keevans then read out details of McGregor’s prior convictions, dating between his last fine for speeding imposed at Blanchardstown District Court on November 30, 2017 and one for breaking a red light in 2008.

The list of offences included other speeding charges, parking on double yellow lines, contravening a traffic sign, holding a mobile phone and driving on a provisional licence while unaccompanied, when McGregor was in his early 20s.

Sgt Keevans said he had been in a marked patrol car using a laser speed meter and the offence had been on a dry night.

McGregor was alone in his car at the time.

“I spoke to him for about five minutes, I advised him to drive slower. He just said ‘I’m sorry’, that’s all,” Sgt Keevans told the court.

The potential fine was up to €2,000.

“Feel free to call your client,” Judge Zaidan told Mr Kenny.

The solicitor said he was authorised to apologise on his client’s behalf but the judge said the accused was the best person to do that.

“Of course I apologise,” McGregor said from the body of the court.

“Take the oath please,” Judge Zaidan said and McGregor initially said “what?” before getting into the witness box and being sworn in.

The judge had to call for silence as murmuring around the packed court grew louder.

Mr Kenny told McGregor he had heard evidence of his previous convictions, some from a “considerable time ago".

“I think you understand the seriousness of the offence that is before the court,” he said. “Is there anything you would like to express to the court?”

“There’s a lot there, isn’t there?” McGregor said, referring to the previous convictions that were “going back".

“I apologise, I didn’t know I was going that fast,” he said. “As the man said, I was polite, I apologised.”

Judge Zaidan asked why he had not paid the fixed penalty notice and McGregor replied: “I passed it on to be paid.”

McGregor “travels quite a lot” and it had been fully intended to pay the notice, Mr Kenny said.

He took the matter very seriously and did not intend for it to “get this far.” The fine “should have been paid” but it was an administrative error, he said.

McGregor then stepped down from the witness box and stood with his hands clasped in front of him, occasionally glancing around.

Judge Zaidan said he was “somewhat taken aback” by the number of previous convictions, some going back to the accused’s late teens.

Mr Kenny said it had been “well-documented that Mr McGregor’s life changed” after that.

Judge Zaidan said the court was disappointed by the fact that McGregor was detected at 154kph and the fine went unpaid, bearing in mind that almost a year ago, he was caught speeding at 158kph.

McGregor was fortunate that the State chose to give him the same opportunity as drivers detected at 60kph in a 50kph zone, rather than prosecuting him for careless or dangerous driving.

“The speed here is at the high end,” he said and “obviously the higher the speed the greater the risk.”

“Speed kills and that is what makes speed dangerous,” Judge Zaidan said. “When speeding goes wrong, the consequences are catastrophic and lives change, there’s no question about it. Sadly we have lost more lives on our roads because of excessive speed, dangerous speeding and other bad behaviour on our roads and that is more so than as a result of violence.”

He acknowledged that McGregor’s apology “appears to be sincere”; the sergeant had said he was polite and respectful and he had come across like that in court as well, the judge continued.

Mr Kenny said he wholly agreed with the judge’s comments.

McGregor’s profile was “higher than the average individual,” the case would be reported and it would “reflect very badly on him” as an international sportsperson.

The negative publicity would be a form of punishment in itself, he said.

The judge took McGregor’s remorse into account and that he had delegated the task of paying the penalty but this was “not an excuse".

“He is fortunate he was not charged with a far more serious road traffic allegation of careless driving or dangerous driving,” Judge Zaidan said.

The judge gave McGregor six months to pay the €1,000 fine, and said he would “mark the seriousness” of the offence by disqualifying him from driving.

“Thank you your honour,” McGregor said as he walked out of the courtroom, before being ushered into a consultation room to speak to his solicitor.

He re-emerged minutes later to cheers and shouted questions from a large crowd of onlookers waiting in the rain at the courthouse steps.

McGregor did not stop to speak to reporters but said “you’ve just gotta drive safer, right” as he walked with his solicitor to his waiting car, where a minder stood at the back passenger door holding an umbrella.

When asked if he was going to slow down in future, McGregor said: “yes, yes, yes,” before climbing into the BMW and being driven away.

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