Kerry garda was watching drivers for phone use

Traffic division gardaí in Kerry were specifically watching for mobile phone use by all drivers, including bus drivers, in Killarney during the summer, a court has been told.

A Clare bus driver saw the case against him dismissed at Killarney District Court yesterday. He had been summonsed by a garda who was specifically watching out for mobile phone use by all motorists travelling from Spanish Point.

The driver and coach company owner was “adamant” he had not been holding a mobile phone but rather a Bluetooth earpiece — which he handed into court for inspection.

Michael David Lyons, of Spanish Point, Miltown Malbay, Co Clare, whose family have been in the travel industry for over 60 years, said he was wearing a Bluetooth earpiece when he was stopped by a garda near the Ballydowney roundabout on Port Rd, Killarney, on July 20 last year. He was not holding a phone to his ear, the court heard.

He told his solicitor, Pat F O’Connor, he had just dropped off a coach-load of German tourists at Ross Castle and was on his way back to Clare.

The black earpiece was connected by Bluetooth to his phone, which was stored in his bag. He was not holding the phone, although he was speaking to his wife at the time, and it was the earpiece he was holding, the court was told.

Denis G O’Mahony, a Castleisland-based traffic division garda, stopped and summonsed Mr Lyons. He maintained that he had seen him with his right hand up to his ear and that he had been driving near the roundabout while holding the phone.

The garda said he had been looking out for “all motorists with mobile phones”, specifically watching out for mobile phone use from a laneway on the date. It was his own decision to look out for mobile phone use that day, he told Mr O’Connor.

“That’s a new one on me,” said the solicitor, who inquired if he was perhaps “fixated” with mobile phone use by drivers.

Garda O’Mahony did not say bus drivers used phones while driving. “I said he wouldn’t be the first bus driver I stopped with a mobile phone,” the garda told Mr O’Connor.

Garda O’Mahony said he was not fixated with the offence involving mobile phones.

He said he did recall that Mr Lyons denied it when pulled over and he knew Mr Lyons had written letters to that effect subsequently and agreed with Mr O’Connor that he had gone to “extreme lengths” to assert his innocence.

However, Garda O’Mahony said he was quite certain what he saw was a mobile phone, not an earpiece that he was holding.

Judge O’Connor said if an ordinary citizen was watching the case he would be inclined to believe the defendant.

“I think he probably was using the earpiece — I have no choice but to dismiss it,” said the judge.

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