Man who took car on test drive struck off-duty garda

A man selling his car because he had been disqualified from driving later learned that the man who took it for a test drive hit an off-duty garda.

Ryan O’Gorman, of Brookfield House, the Miles, Clonakilty, Co Cork, faced a charge of not taking due diligence in knowing the identity of the man who took his car for a test drive after Clonakilty District Court heard that the test driver had hit the garda while driving and then provided him with a false name, address, and phone number.

Garda Richard Casey told the court he was out walking with his wife, also a garda, while both were off-duty on New Year’s Day last.

They were on the bypass road in Clonakilty, near the entrance to a garage, when a car turned in and struck Garda Casey on the lower left leg. Garda Casey said the Volkswagen Passat then stopped and he spoke with the driver to tell him he had struck him. The driver apologised and said he had not seen them.

The man gave Garda Casey a name, address, and phone number but it turned out they were false and the number out of use. Garda Casey said that, apart from his leg being sore for a few days, there were no injuries.

His wife, Garda Karen O’Flynn, said she had taken the registration of the car and later confirmed O’Gorman was the owner.

All parties agreed O’Gorman was not driving the car at the time and that the driver was in his late 20s or early 30s, Irish, and with short brown hair.

Sergeant Michelle O’Leary received a report from Garda Casey on January 10, but due to the false information given by the driver, she came to a “dead end”.

O’Gorman was contacted on February 23 and came to Clonakilty Garda Station on March 16. He said the only explanation was that he had advertised the car on Facebook and three males came to view the car, one of whom took it for a test drive.

O’Gorman told gardaí: “When he returned he was only interested in taking the vehicle and was in a rush to get away.”

Sgt O’Leary said she found it “difficult to believe” O’Gorman did not know who was driving his car that day.

Giving evidence, O’Gorman said when the men came to view the car, one stayed in their own vehicle, one spoke with him, and another took his car for a drive for five or 10 minutes.

“They hurried away soon after,” he said. “The only thing I had for them was a contact number.”

By the time he was contacted by gardaí, his phone no longer had a record of the number. His mobile provider could not supply it as it was a prepaid phone. He said: “I tried my best.”

He said he did not accompany the man driving his car as he had thousands of euro of equipment in his shed and did not want to leave it.

It was put to O’Gorman that his advertisement stressed “no time wasters or private numbers” and what occurred was at complete variance with that.

O’Gorman’s car was fully insured and he told the court that the test driver told him he had third party cover.

O’Gorman’s solicitor, Conrad Murphy, said his client was not the most experienced man in the world but that he did not know there was any issue until seven and a half weeks later.

“Unfortunately the guard was hit by a vehicle and he was very sorry about that.”

O’Gorman was prosecuted under Section 107 (4) (b) of the Road Traffic Act. Judge Mary Dorgan quoted a part of it referring to “reasonable diligence” by an owner in ascertaining who was driving their vehicle.

“The man could have been killed and your client doesn’t know who was driving the car,” she said.

The court heard O’Gorman had four previous convictions and had been disqualified for dangerous driving — resulting in the sale of the car. It was sold earlier this year for €4,000.

Convicting O’Gorman, Judge Dorgan fined him €950, and gave him five months to pay.

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