KERRY county councillor Danny Healy-Rae has appeared in court in Newcastle West over an unpaid speeding fine, which he claimed he should not be responsible for because it was his wife driving the car.
Mr Healy-Rae, of Main Street, Kilgarvan, County Kerry contested the summons brought against him by Garda Patrick Melody of the Garda Traffic Corps, who detected his car driving at 91 kmph in a 60 kmph zone at Gortboy, Newcastle West on October 23 last year. Mr Healy-Rae, the son of former South Kerry TD Jackie Healy-Rae, told the court last Friday that he should not receive four penalty points for failing to pay the fine because “I wasn’t driving that car, simple as that. I swear that in any part of the world”.
However Judge Mary Larkin told him that “ignorance is no excuse” and handed him a conviction.
Mr Healy-Rae told the court that on the date of the offence “I was working in Tralee, driving a machine”, and that it was his wife, Eileen, who had been driving his car.
However, as the car is registered to Mr Healy-Rae, a fixed charge penalty was posted in his name to his home address, which he claimed his wife had received but had forgotten to tell him about.
“Eileen deals with the letters. When she saw it was for her, she put it away in her own place to deal with it herself. But she omitted to do that in the allotted time.”
Ms Healy-Rae gave evidence that she was driving the car when it was caught by Garda Melody’s speed camera, and when the fine came to the house in her husband’s name. “I put it aside and forgot about it”.
The court was told that Ms Healy-Rae only remembered the fine after the initial 28-day period to pay it had lapsed. Mr Healy-Rae said that when his wife called the office in Thurles that issues the notices, she was told: “I would have to take the points”. He said that he only became aware of the fine “long after” the 28-day period had lapsed. “I hadn’t seen the notice at any time before that”.
Insp Dermot O’Connor told Mr Healy-Rae that as the registered owner of the car, “it is your obligation to nominate another driver, under the Road Traffic Act”.
Insp O’Connor said that Mr Healy-Rae had failed to inform the gardai that it was his wife who was driving the car. “It’s not in any way the fault of the State. The failure was on your part”. “I’ve no problem with that at all”, Mr Healy-Rae replied. When asked if he accepted that the original fine had been received in the post, Mr Healy-Rae replied “I do now”.
The court was told that the fixed charge notice office in Thurles received a call about Mr Healy-Rae’s fine on December 21 last year. However at this point, there were still eleven days left in the second 28-day period in which the increased fine could be paid.
Ms Healy-Rae, under cross examination by Insp O’Connor, admitted that “I didn’t read [the fine] fully”, and did not realise that her husband had to nominate her as the driver on the day.
Solicitor Kate Cussen, defending, sought to have the case struck out as “the best evidence of the State is that the vehicle was speeding. [The State] is not in a position to say who was driving it”. Ms Cussen said that, put simply, Mr Healy-Rae “is not guilty of the offence” as he was not driving the car. However Judge Larkin dismissed the defence’s argument, as the law states that it is Mr Healy-Rae’s responsibility to nominate another driver. “Ignorance is no excuse”, she added.
Mr Healy-Rae was fined €120, with three months to pay. He also received four penalty points.