‘Appalling’ for insurer to cancel policy of drink-driving accused, says judge

39-year-old woman charged with driving offences is innocent ‘until proven otherwise’

Ennis District Court. Photograph: Google Street View

Ennis District Court. Photograph: Google Street View

 

A judge has said it is “appalling” that an insurance firm has cancelled a driver’s policy after she was involved in an incident from which she is facing two driving related charges.

The 39-year old woman is pleading not guilty to a drink-driving and dangerous driving charge. At Ennis District Court, Judge Patrick Durcan said: “This lady is an innocent person in the eyes of the court until proven otherwise.”

The judge said the woman should contact the state agency that looks after consumer protection over her insurer withdrawing cover.

Her solicitor, Daragh Hassett, said it is the first such case he has come across. He said his client has been off the road since February because of the company’s decision.

“Given the withdrawing of cover no other insurance company will quote her,” he said.

“My client is now effectively held to ransom as she has been put off the road before any court has had an opportunity to adjudicate on the case.”

Mr Hassett said the insurance firm told him the decision “is after considering ‘the circumstances surrounding the accident’ and is not contingent on any Garda prosecution”.

He said: “To me that is a very unfair term as it totally subjective.”

Mr Hassett said when the case comes to court for hearing, his client will be fully contesting the charges.

“She has, on my advice, also referred the matter to the Financial Services Ombudsman. It appears to me to be a total deviation on the presumption of innocence charter and clearly such a condition should be red-flagged to people before they decide to take out a policy.”

Mr Hassett said his client was not aware it was a condition of the policy.

He said: “The policy states they can cancel cover with 10 days notice and reference is made to a general condition on page 15 of the policy. It should have been highlighted as a special condition as it deviates from the heretofore industry norm in my view.”