Leap man wins his case over ‘half-cut' 4x4s

October 16th, 2019 11:22 AM

By Southern Star Team

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THE case against a Leap dealer in used parts for 4x4s, for alleged export breaches in the shipment of two container loads of parts to Egypt, has been dismissed.

Tim Fitzpatrick, trading as West Cork 4x4 Breakers, denied the charges against him. As well as dismissing the charges, Judge Con O’Leary awarded Mr Fitzpatrick his legal costs against the prosecution.

At a recent sitting of Cork District Court, barrister Tim O’Sullivan said the legislation was complicated but that in essence shipping of what he called ‘waste’ or ‘end of life vehicles’ to Egypt was prohibited and was an offence under Irish law.

Summonses related to two separate containers alleging that Tim Fitzpatrick, on dates between September 11th and October 4th 2017, at the Port of Cork, did ship waste. The prosecution said this related to material for Egypt that was prohibited and contrary to the shipment of waste regulations.

The prosecution clarified that there was no allegation of any kind of environmental breach, but simply the exporting of materials prohibited by regulations.

‘It was a breach of an export ban. There was a simple prohibition,’ the prosecution barrister said.

Because of the complexity of the legislation, Judge O’Leary was told that the prosecuting authority for all such cases around the country was Dublin City Council, which acted for all local authorities.

Witness Ann O’Sullivan, an authorised officer for waste management regulations, said that on October 24th 2017 she was contacted by port authorities in Rotterdam who had concerns about the two containers from West Cork 4x4 Breakers, owned by Tim Fitzpatrick of Leap, Co Cork, and had opened the containers. ‘The Dutch authorities wanted to send them back to Ireland,’ Ms O’Sullivan said.

The witness contacted Mr Fitzpatrick and she told him what was required and he agreed to the repatriation of the containers.

John Devlin, defence barrister, said the three vehicles in each container were all cut in half and represented vehicle parts – along with other vehicle parts.

Mr O’Sullivan BL said the defendant was effectively saying, that as he was not allowed to export a vehicle, he would cut it in half and export it.

The prosecution barrister said there was no difficulty with the other vehicle parts in the containers, but there was a difficulty with the half-cut vehicles which, he said, could not be re-used.

The defence called motor assessor Liam Cotter who inspected the contents of both containers for the purpose of this case when they were returned from Rotterdam.

He said a car cut in two could not be put together and re-used, but that Mr Fitzpatrick was dealing with 4x4 vehicles only. And he said the term ‘half-cuts’ was very misleading because he said that the body of a 4x4 consisted of a number of discrete parts bolted together, so that these parts could be reused by bolting one removed part onto the frame of a similar vehicle.

Mr Cotter said the terms ‘waste’ and ‘end of life vehicle’ were being conflated in the case and that objectively, everything in the container was usable as a second-hand part.

Judge O’Leary also heard evidence from the defendant but said he was most influenced by Mr Cotter’s evidence and he said he could not convict on the prosecution evidence.

He dismissed both counts.

Defence solicitor Joseph Cuddigan applied for defence costs against the prosecution, and said such an order would have been made against the defence if the prosecution had succeeded. Judge O’Leary agreed and granted the order for costs against the prosecution.

The prosecution was brought under EU Waste Management (Shipment of Waste) regulations.

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