Motorist hit woman's car with iron rod following stand-off over right of way on West Cork boreen

A court has found that a man hit another vehicle with an iron rod in an alleged road-rage "showdown" sparked by a reluctance by two motorists to reverse on a West Cork boreen.

Jaap Van Hemmem, of Friendly Cover House in Durrus near Bantry, faced two charges, of using insulting or threatening or abusive words and behaviour, and of criminal damage, in relation to the incident which unfolded on the Mine Road near Durrus on April 20, 2018.

Bantry District Court heard from Tracy Holt, a 53-year-old originally from the UK but now living in West Cork, that she was driving her Toyota on the Mine Road near Durrus at around 4.20pm that day and encountered a Nissan being driven by Mr Van Hemmem coming in the opposite direction.

Judge James McNulty was told that both cars stopped and both motorists looked at each other. Ms Holt said she felt there was nowhere behind her that she could reverse into, and she ultimately got out of the car and asked Mr Van Hemmem to reverse.

He did so and she alleged when passing she said to him "see, it wasn't that far for you to go" at which point Mr Van Hemmem slapped her wing mirror.

She admitted she then called him "a bastard" and that at that point he produced what she said was an iron bar, hitting her car twice on the driver side.

The court also heard that the cars scraped each other as they passed on the narrow road. She said she felt scared and described the encounter as "surreal", adding that she called gardai immediately.

The court also heard that Ms Holt's mother had passed away that very week but she denied it had any impact on her behaviour, saying she may have been stressed but she was not acting irrationally.

Mr Van Hemmem denied having any iron bar and his solicitor, Ray Hennessy, argued that the cars were in such close proximity while passing that his client would have been unable to strike Ms Holt's car as alleged.

Mr Van Hemmem, a 44-year-old father of three, said he had simply shrugged during the initial stand-off and that he did ultimately reverse 250 yards to facilitate Ms Holt when she could have reversed just two car lengths.

He alleged she made a remark that "you young guys are always up for a fight", to which he said: "If you are going to drive these roads maybe learn how to drive first." He claimed Ms Holt had then opened her car door onto his car, and he had slapped her wing mirror.

Judge McNulty found that Mr Van Hemmem was not guilty of the charge of insulting or abusive words and behaviour and said while Ms Holt was "understandably stressed" and maybe "bolshy", Mr Van Hemmem's comment about driving was condescending and arrogant.

The Judge said the criminal damage charge was proven but because of Mr Van Hemmem's good record and lack of any previous convictions he would deal with it by way of conditional discharge on a bond of €5,000, no cash required, provided Mr Van Hemmem keep the peace for the next three years.

Recognisance for any appeal was set at Mr Van Hemmem's own bond of €100, no cash required.

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