Suspended term and fine for Kirk
THE 66-YEAR-old man who had provided €50,000 surety for Thomas 'Slab' Murphy in his bail from the Special Criminal Court where he is facing tax-related charges is 'wealthy on paper but in reality he's not', Dundalk District Court heard last week.
The case against John Kirk of Drumkeith, Inniskeen, had been adjourned for sentencing after Judge William Hamill had raised questions about how he had been granted legal aid when he was approved surety for Mr Murphy who is on bail.
Kirk had admitted drink driving, not having insurance and driving while disqualified at Tullycahan on June 23, 2012, and the court was told it was his third conviction for drunk driving.
On hearing that Kirk was on legal aid, Judge Hamill had asked about the surety, saying he would have to take the defendant's means into consideration as he was being asked to consider a non-custodial sentence, which could mean a fine.
When the case resumed last Thursday, the defendant's solicitor Catherine Taaffe said her client would be able to pay a fine if one was imposed.
She explained that the €50,000 surety 'was not a sum of money, but title deeds to land'.
'On paper, Mr Kirk is a wealthy man, but in reality he's not,' she said, but added that 'means are not an issue' if a fine was imposed.
Judge Hamill noted that the maximum fine which he could impose was €5,000 which was 'a small fraction' of what Kirk had already put up as surety.
However, he was concerned that a report had found that Kirk was not suitable for community service, for medical reasons, and noted that he had previous convictions for drunk driving.
Ms Taaffe said there were mental health issues and assured the court that her client was not on the road and no longer had access to a car as his son had arranged its disposal.
He had gone through a difficult period following the death of his wife and she asked the judge to impose a suspended sentence as he was at low risk of re-offending.
In regard to the land, she said her client 'doesn't use it and was of the opinion that he didn't own it as his son uses it and earns the income from it'.
Judge Hamill said he was 'amazed' that anyone had allowed Kirk to offer himself as independent surety given what he had been told and wondered if he understood the position he had put himself in.
He imposed a five-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months, on condition that Kirk enter a bond to be of good behaviour on his own bail of €1,000.
He also imposed a fine of €2,500 with six months to pay and disqualified him from driving for 12 years.