The Police Property Application came before Limerick District Court
A LIMERICK solicitor has accused a judge of setting a dangerous precedent after she ruled a man who unwittingly bought a stolen car is entitled to keep the vehicle.
Bill O’Donnell made his comments during a Police Property Application which came before Limerick District Court.
Sergeant Donal Cronin said gardai were seeking to dispose of a 2010-registered Volkswagen Passat which was seized at a traffic checkpoint under the provisions of the Road Traffic Act last year. The application, he said, was to allow the court to adjudicate who the legal owner is.
“We have no interest in it,” he said.
The court was the told the vehicle was stolen in Dublin on January 21, 2017 and that an IT manager who lives and works in Limerick bought it on February 2, 2017 after it was advertised on Done Deal. The man told his solicitor Tom Kiely that having met the seller “outside the M50” he paid him €6,950 in cash.
He said he checked the discs and the VIN and confirmed the log book matched the details of both the car and the seller.
While it was subsequently established by gardai that both the log book and licence plates were false, the man insisted they seemed to be genuine to him.
“All of the documents matched the car,” he said, adding that he took out insurance on the vehicle immediately after he bought it.
He rejected suggestions by Mr O’Donnell that he did not carry out sufficient due diligence.
“You did not go about the business correctly in relation to the purchase of this vehicle,” said the solicitor.
In his evidence, Noel O’Loughlin of Allianz Ireland, said it paid out €12,630 to the original owner of the car in accordance with the terms of her insurance policy. Having learned the stolen Passat had been seized by gardai, the insurance company applied to the Department of Transport to have the vehicle registered in its name.
Judge Marian O’Leary was told the application was made on April 30 last and a log book confirming that Allianz Ireland is the registered owner was produced in court.
When asked by the judge, Mr O’Loughlin confirmed if the vehicle had not turned up the payout would have been “the end of the matter”.
The judge said she was not impressed that Allianz Ireland had not flagged the car as having been reported stolen until March 1, 2017 – almost six weeks after it was first alerted.
She said the company had not done enough to protect innocent buyers and that had it should have been uploaded to the relevant database quicker. Urging the court to find in favour of Allianz Ireland Mr O’Donnell submitted that not to do so would be setting a dangerous precedent.
”Let’s be practical about this, the vehicle is the proceeds of crime, we are the registered owner. He (the buyer) has no legal right to the vehicle”.
After directing that the vehicle be returned to the buyer, the judge placed a 14 day stay on the order to facilitate the lodging of an appeal.