A FARMER who was accused by a judge of “having a little fun” during a contested court hearing was fined €3,000 after he was convicted of using ‘green diesel’ while driving.
John Burke, aged 59, of Duncummin House, Emly, County Tipperary had denied two charges relating to a detection at Boher on February 14, 2008.
In his evidence, customs officer Christopher Mulqueen said while conducting a checkpoint at around 3.30pm, he stopped a pickup truck which was being driven by the defendant.
He said he took a sample of fuel from the vehicle and that having performed a roadside test, he was of the opinion it was green diesel.
Officer Mulqueen alerted a colleague before proceeding to take a number of additional samples, which he later sent to the State Laboratory for analysis.
Another customs officer, John Mahon, told the court he spoke to Mr Burke after being alerted by his colleague.
However, he said once he cautioned the defendant he [Mr Burke] made a hand gesture indicating he was zipping his mouth closed and shrugged his shoulders.
Mr Burke, the court heard, remained silent and would not indicate if he understood the caution until the intervention of another customs official – Paul O’Byrne.
While the defendant failed to answer any questions put to him he indicated he was the owner of the vehicle when he was informed it could be detained to facilitate further investigations.
Cross-examining Officer Mahon, Mr Burke – who represented himself – asked why the registered owner of the vehicle had not been contacted as part of the investigation.
Referring to himself in the third person he then put it to the witness that “Mr Burke had exercised his right to silence” and that it was possible the vehicle had been stolen.
At this point Judge Aingeal ni Chonduin interjected saying the evidence was that Mr Burke had made admissions regarding his ownership of the pickup truck “unless I am as thick as a plank”.
Later during heated exchanges she accused the defendant of “being smart” and of “messing” with the court.
“You strike me as the type of man who will try to slip out of any situation,” she said adding: “You would argue with our Lord Almighty if you could.”
After the prosecution closed its case, Mr Burke took to the witness box as if to give direct evidence. However, after swearing the oath he indicated he would not be giving evidence as, he said: “I need a solicitor to maintain my rights”.
After convicting the defendant of both charges, Judge Ni Chonduin imposed fines totalling €3,000.