Court Summons, driving without due care & attention

mathepac

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I was served with a summons on 14th October to appear in the District Court next month to answer an allegation of driving without due care and attention in early February. The statements come for the occupants, driver and a front-seat passenger, of a vehicle that was allegedly on the same stretch of a motorway as me at the time of the alleged incident.

I made a statement in the local station to the Guard who approached me about the matter initially. In my statement I described the allegation as ludicrous, the manoeuvre I am accused of making as impossible and the witnesses as either drunk or on drugs. Their statements contain what sound like decent descriptions of me (word for word identical) and both describe me as being 30 years younger than I am.

The local Guard had visited me at my home earlier and asked me under caution if anyone else drove my car. I confirmed no-one else did. He then described what his colleague, the prosecuting Guard, alleged happened. My immediate response was to say "impossible, no-one could do that at that location" This is location A.

When I then visited him at the station, to make my statement, he read me the allegations, which gave a different location, Location B.

The summons states the alleged incident occurred at a location different from the first two, Location C.

I rang the district court office today to talk to the clerk of the court. I asked what would happen as my local Guard said the first appearance would be a brief one. I asked could I get copy statements, could I challenge a 2nd appearance (on the stupidity of the evidence: moving locations, impossible manoeuvre, identical inaccurate descriptions of me) and ask for a dismissal. She said she couldn't advise me and I needed a solicitor.

Do I? Can I not represent myself, collect the evidence against me and then look for legal advice? Can I suggest putting €100 in the poor box in order to avoid further expense and my own firm belief that it was all a ball of smoke, albeit drug-fuelled (maybe not the last bit!) and that a second appearance would just be a huge waste of time and money?

First summons to court for anything in 50 years of driving. Parking and a few speeding tickets, 5 I think, is the sum total of my vehicular or other criminality.
 
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Leper

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If you wish not to employ a solicitor you don't have to. Then you must appear in court to give your account of the allegations.

Court appearances are difficult to those who were never in court before. Emotions are high. The whole court is intimidating to inexperienced players. There will be lots of gardaí present and their management who have nothing to do with your case. Members of the public who have nothing else to do will be there too. Don't forget the press either - all they want is a good story. It is likely that remand prisoners will be brought into and out of the court while you're there. There will be solicitors there. You won't have too many friends in the audience.

I would advise you employ a competent solicitor. Remember our courts are courts of law not courts of justice.
 

SparkRite

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Can I suggest putting €100 in the poor box in order to avoid further expense and my own firm belief that it was all a ball of smoke,....................
You can, but I certainly wouldn't advise it. The former suggests guilt and self-sentencing and the latter belittles the work of the Gardai and the courts.

If you wish to represent yourself you are perfectly entitled to, however remember Abraham Lincoln reportedly employed the following adage. Here are two versions:- If you are your own lawyer you have a fool for a client. He who represents himself has a fool for a client.

In general, IMHO, judges don't look too kindly on persons who represent themselves as it tends to slow up procedure.
 
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cremeegg

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I have been to court a number of times on behalf of my former employer, once without a solicitor.

All the things Leper says are true, you have to ask yourself how they would affect you. Perhaps not much, although the sight of people being brought in and out in handcuffs did put me off a little, even though they had nothing to do with me.

The time I did not use a solicitor the company had been sued for €4k it didn't seem to justify legal costs. We lost, although I suspect we would have lost as well with a solicitor.

Here are a few questions I suggest you ask yourself;

Do you consider the possibility of being convicted for driving with out due care and attention as a fairly minor matter or something serious.

Are you emotionally too involved to do a good job defending yourself. (I think you are, ludicrous, impossible, drunk or on drugs, stupidity of the evidence, these are not the words of a cool head, and court will be pressurised.)

Do you know what your story to the judge will be ? The complainants were drunk ? The guards don't know the difference between location A B and C ? While either of these may be true neither of them makes much of a defence for you.

Finally, what is behind all this. I have never heard of a ludicrous allegation of an impossible manoeuvre made by someone who is not a Guard being the basis of a summons. If you don't address this issue you are wasting your time.
 

mathepac

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Thanks for the replies and suggestions and I hear what you're saying, but the leopard doesn't change his spots just because he's the one in the firing line! :)

I have the names of two very good solicitors whose expertise is in matters of this nature. A colleague of theirs, my general solicitor who has heard my version of events, says he believes either can "plead down" or get a dismissal. They're probably members of the same golf club as the judge with cases decided on the 19th hole.

My annoyance with the system is that it appears to be designed for efficiency rather than effectiveness. In other words, like all bureaucratic systems, it must be seen to do things right rather than do the right things.

Why should I have to pay solicitor-level fees for what on day 1 sounds to me like messenger-boy work? The courts are clogged not because they lack resources but because they seem to need to do everything twice, face-to-face., in small crowded buildings. It has taken almost 10 months to get my mickey-mouse (in relative terms) matter to an airing and it won't even be aired fully, just flashed briefly. Why can't I get the specifics of the statements in advance, format strategy with my brief and *then* appear before the beak? See how quickly I have adopted the lingua franca of the criminal classes and I ain't even done no porridge yet guv'nor.

Yes, I dread the possibility of getting points on my lovely clean licence and I'll probably ring one of the two numbers I have on Tuesday and painfully part with money or commit to parting with it for my 15 seconds of infamy. Watch the Red Tops for the headlines.

Any other commentary or suggestions welcome.

mathepac
 
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Leper

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Hi Mathpac, I only know you through this forum and you seem to be a rather down-to-earth type of guy although I don't agree with everything you post. But, don't treat the court like a comedy show because you'll find out fast that the laugh is on you.

Get a competent solicitor before I have a heart attack thinking of what you might do.
 

mathepac

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Thanks. Imagine how boring life would be if we all agreed all the time? I'll make that call on Tuesday and I'll attend as well but keep my mouth shut!
 

Brendan Burgess

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Hi mathepac

That sounds like a terrible mess.

I think you should ask a solicitor for advice but I suspect that you would represent yourself better.

The judge will look for evidence. As there seems so much uncertainty about the location, it would be hard for the judge to find you guilty.

Their powers of observation can be challenged if they put you at 30 years younger than you are.

I also find it hard to believe that the back seat passenger in a car witnessed whatever happened with such clarity, or were there three of them in the front seat?

I assume that your accusers will be called to give evidence? You should be able to challenge them.

As the others say. Keep your cool and respect the court and the Garda.

Brendan
 

DeeKie

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Whatever you do don’t offer the poor box without a solicitor. Not the actions of an innocent man. If you do it yourself be very clear, speak slowly, be very respectful, don’t slag off the people who reported you, be very clear and explain the factual errors, listen to and answer questions. At the end ask the judge to dismiss the case.
 

mathepac

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The guards don't know the difference between location A B and C ? While either of these may be true neither of them makes much of a defence for you.
I can't mention the details of the alleged offence but location means everything.
 

mathepac

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I also find it hard to believe that the back seat passenger in a car witnessed whatever happened with such clarity, or were there three of them in the front seat?
Front-seat passenger @Brendan who had to see past the driver, past my empty passenger seat to see me.
 

Sunny

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Odd case. Did the details of the car match yours and were you travelling on the road at that time? Not that I don't believe you but why would they make it up. Nothing in it for them. Probably case of mistaken identity.

Recently had an incident where a car damaged mine when in a car park when trying to park causing significant damage and then just drove off. Reported to the Guards who talked to the shopping centre about the licence plate of the car from CCTV.. Guards that night called to a woman and told her that they were there about the damage she caused and driving away. She denied and denied it and apparently the Guards told her she was just making it worse. Anyway, eventually the Guards called to see the CCTV themselves and it was a different vehicle...….Felt sorry for the poor woman! But these things happen.
 

mathepac

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My day in court, held in a temporary venue while the real court building is remediated, was an experience every bit as bad as posters predicted it would be. If you're a court virgin like I was, the whole day was very distressing and confusing, and contrary to my expectations, noisy, despite a couple of Guards shouting "silence in court" from time to time. This admonishment, as well as the one to "switch off all phones", also repeated frequently, apparently applied only to the great unwashed, the citizens there to have law done to them. Legal eagles, both solicitors and barristers, Guards, prison officers, probation officers (it took a while to work that one out) chatted, joked, laughed, texted and took calls all day long as well as engaging with proceedings from time-to-time. There was a perhaps sub-conscious dress-code displayed by the male and female barristers, females favouring the off-the-shoulder gown, caught at the elbows, while their male counterparts had a more buttoned-up style.

Seeing remand prisoners, kids in my eyes, brought in handcuffed to prison-officers was upsetting, particularly as they were in chains as well; great big mediaeval manacles on both wrists as well as the handcuff. I saw one teenager sentenced to prison as well as having multiple driving bans imposed on him after a night of madness where he accumulated a number of dangerous driving charges.

It was difficult to hear the judge at times, despite there being a PA system that worked briefly only once causing widespread shock and then lapsing into silence. I met my solicitor in the court and he asked me for a number. I issued him with my summons number but he was looking for a running order number, indicating the sequence in which the court would deal with cases. A long notice was posted near the entrance to the court but I neither knew of its existence nor its significance until I spotted it at the lunch-break. Having located me by name on his copy of the list, Rumpole asked for my instructions. "Not guilty, guvnor" quoth I. I was asked to have a seat, relax and be patient.

My case was called late in the afternoon, about 3:15 pm and Rumpole made an application for disclosure, a Gary Doyle order according the those of us who have the inside track on this secret, mystifying world where everyone communicates in code. Section this, sub-section that, paragraph God knows what. I'll bring my Enigma machine the next day. The judge lapsed into one of his brief forays into his Honour's second profession of stand-up comedian, asking me if I needed a Polish interpreter, a reference to my very Irish name and a list of requests for Lithuanian, Chinese and other interpreters in the morning session. The in-crowd duly chuckled while I was left non-plussed. Catching the witticism the second time around, I smiled and rising to the bait, I informed his Honour I'd struggle on in English the next day, but thanked him for his thoughtfulness. He asked the court clerk for a hearing date. Early March 2020 it is for round two, 13 months after my alleged transgression.

I thanked Rumpole who said he'd be in touch as soon as the papers were to hand and I left quietly, robbed of my opportunity to make a Sydney Carton-like exit and speech. "It is a far, far better thing I do now ..." At least I'll get to enjoy one last Christmas before parting with my head.
 
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Palerider

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The only ones who fear Court and indeed prison are the ordinary folk, people like you and I, and yours is a simple driving offence.

I have gone into the local court as an interested observer, what amazed me was the ease free legal aid was granted, a request made, an approval returned, no questions as to income etc.....the customers.....frequent flyers could not give a toss, it's all a game to the sideline folk, the legal eagles, etc, plead, kick it down the road, another day out and dont forget to invoice for the appearance.
 

mathepac

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Odd case.
For sure.
Did the details of the car match yours and were you travelling on the road at that time?
Yes and yes
Not that I don't believe you but why would they make it up. Nothing in it for them. Probably case of mistaken identity.
I have no idea. What I am accused of doing is not unlikely or improbable but impossible at any of the 3 locations mentioned at various stages in the snail-like progress of the case. How reliable would your memory be about an incident that allegedly happened 13 months prior to your eventual appearance as a witness in court, if they're called at all? I'd question my reliability, but then as I said in my statement to the Guards, nothing about that journey on that night stands out for me as odd or memorable. All I can account for is where I had been and where I was travelling to on the night in question. I gotta prepare Rumpole once we have all our stuff together and ensure it stays together on the day.
 
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