A judge has described as “utterly bizarre” an incident where a college lecturer lied to gardaí over a car crash that hospitalised four teens.
At Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Tom O’Donnell made his comment after hearing that Niamh Hehir, aged 47, lied to gardaí when saying that she was the sole occupant and driver of the family car that crashed on a flooded road in east Clare last year.
However, Ms Hehir made up the story to cover for her husband, Paul Collins, aged 66, who picked up four 16-year-olds “in a gesture of goodwill” during a winter storm on December 12, 2015.
In the crash, the car ”flipped three or four times” according to one of the boys in the back, Calum Mitchell, and ended up on its roof.
A motorist brought Ian Hanrahan, Gearóid Sheehan, Calum Mitchell, and Jonathan McGarry, all from the Corbally, Westbury areas of Limerick away, from the crash scene before the gardaí arrived at the site. Ms Hehir was at home at the time of the accident and went to the scene after taking a phone call from Mr Collins.
The four teens attended the emergency department in Limerick University Hospital and two were kept overnight for observation. Gardaí only became aware of part-time University of Limerick English lecturer Ms Hehir’s lie after parents of the boys contacted them later that night.
Ms Hehir, when lying to the gardaí, was not aware that the teens had attended hospital, as they had walked away from the car crash at Ardclooney, Killaloe.
Judge O’Donnell said: “I have heard of bizarre cases in my time, but I find this completely and utterly bizarre.”
He said that the witness statements show that Mr Collins “was flying it” in his car.
Mr Collins admitted to drinking two bottles of beer to gardaí the same day.
In the district court, Judge Patrick Durcan banned the couple, both from Derryvinna, Clonlara, from driving —Mr Collins for two years for careless driving and failing to give appropriate information and Ms Hehir for six months for knowingly making a false report.
The two appealed the sanctions to the circuit court where Judge O’Donnell lifted the driving ban on Ms Hehir but affirmed the order of the court to maintain the two-year ban on Mr Collins.
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