THE case of an alleged assault against the owner of a Riverstick vehicle inspection centre was withdrawn at a recent sitting of Bandon District Court.
And, during the case, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) issued a warning about anyone who might consider hindering or obstructing its vehicle testing inspectors.
During the Bandon case, Judge McNulty was informed by solicitor Plunkett Taaffe, acting as agent for a solicitor in Tipperary, that Christopher Brannigan, a former vehicle technical inspector, working on behalf of the Road Safety Authority (RSA), would not be giving evidence against Anthony McSweeney of Riverstick Motor Ltd.
Mr Taaffe told the court that Mr Brannigan, who is now retired, had agreed to a separate compromise arrangement between the parties and would not be giving evidence.
Mr Taaffe told Judge McNulty the compromise agreement ‘was one of terms’.
Speaking for the RSA, solicitor Colette McCarthy said that the authority had ‘reluctantly’ withdrawn from what was the first and only case, to date, of a prosecution brought against someone for interfering or obstructing a member of their technical inspectors’ team.
The RSA case arose from an incident that took place at Riverstick Motors Ltd on December 4th, 2015, where it was alleged that an inspector, Christopher Brannigan, working for contractors, Bureau Vertis, on behalf of the RSA, was impeded from carrying out an unannounced inspection of the vehicle testing facility at Riverstick Motors.
It was also revealed that the RSA had previously issued a notice to Riverstick Motors stating that the authority intended to suspend the vehicle testing licence at the motor testing centre, to which Mr McSweeney had brought a judicial review of this decision to the High Cour which has only recently concluded.
Colette McCarthy told the court that Mr McSweeney would contend that the notice to suspend the licence at Riverstick Motors was in relation to the incident on December 4th, 2015.
However, Ms McCarthy told the judge that the RSA maintains the suspension notice was in relation to a different incident.
However, gardaí had also brought a prosecution against Mr Anthony McSweeney, for an alleged assault which he denies, also on December 4th, 2015.
Insp Dave Callaghan and solicitor Colette McSweeney said that they only became aware of Mr Brannigan’s decision not to give evidence shortly before the court session began.
Insp Callaghan told Judge McNulty that there were garda witnesses in court, as well as CCTV evidence, but without Mr Brannigan’s testimony, who he described as a ‘key witness’, the State could not proceed with the case against Mr McSweeney.
Judge McNulty described the events in court as a deplorable waste of time and resources, noting that the case had been mentioned or adjourned 13 times since 2015.
He read out Mr Brannigan’s statement, which was made to gardaí back in January 2016, adding that it would have been in the public interest to have the case heard.
In the statement, Mr Brannigan alleged that he had visited Riverstick Motors for unannounced inspections on several occasions without difficulty, but that on the day in question he was caught by the arm and forcibly pushed towards the door. Mr Brannigan said that he was scared and felt pain in his chest and having later attended a doctor, found that he had a separated rib and breast bone.
Ms McCarthy said that the RSA ‘reluctantly’ withdrew the charges against Riverstick Motors, but that the authority was ‘very anxious’ that the message go out that if any of their inspectors are hindered or obstructed while attempting to carry our inspections at vehicle testing centres, a prosecution would follow.
Judge McNulty dismissed the case.