A woman who gave a lift to two men from a Mayo pub, and who was later acquitted of an offence of driving her car for reward, has had the acquittal overturned by the High Court.
District Court Judge Alan Mitchell had ruled that in the absence of money having changed hands, or in the absence of any agreement in advance of the fare, there was no evidence that Ita Granaghan had carried a person for the purposes of a reward.
Ms Granaghan of Bangor Erris, Co Mayo had been charged with driving a car which was not a small public service vehicle for the carriage of persons for reward on January 4, 2018 at Broadhaven Bay Hotel, Ballina Road, Belmullet, Mayo.
The High Court today overturned the acquittal. Mr Justice Anthony Barr ruled the District Court Judge was not correct in law in dismissing the case. He also ruled the District Court Judge was not correct in law in ruling that in order for the carriage as alleged in the offence to be for reward, there had to be a prior agreement as to the price or payment of the actual fare.
The National Transport Authority which had brought an appeal by way of a case stated at the High Court hearing had indicated it was not its intention to seek a retrial and the National Transport Authority only sought clarity on the issue.
Mr Justice Barr noted Ms Granaghan had confirmed she had received a telephone call on her mobile phone and had been asked to take two passengers from a pub to the Broadhaven Bay Hotel. The judge said at the end of the journey she was asked how much the fare was and she answered €20.
In a cautioned statement after the journey the judge said Ms Granaghan admitted her car had never been licensed as a small public service vehicle and confirmed receiving the call and making the arrangement and that she had charged €20.
The judge also noted Ms Granaghan in her statement said she was finished doing “doing that type of work” which the judge said was a “crucial admission.”
Mr Justice Barr said if Ms Granaghan had said “there is no charge, this was just a kindness to you guys" there would have been no offence because that would have shown she had not brought them on the journey for reward.
“The making of the request for €20 clearly showed she expected a reward for the journey that had been undertaken by arrangement between them,” Mr Justice Barr added.
Allowing the appeal and overturning the acquittal, Mr Justice Barr said the District Court Judge was wrong in law in holding that in order for the offence charged to be established there had to be a prior agreement as to the fare that would be payable or payment of the actual fare demanded.