Legal aid sought for boy who owned €35,000 car

Judge describes request to fund the defence of the teenager as ‘extraordinary’

A judge has described as ‘extraordinary’ a request that the State grant free legal aid to fund the defence of a youth accused of dangerous driving in his €35,000 car. File photograph: Getty Images

A judge has described as ‘extraordinary’ a request that the State grant free legal aid to fund the defence of a youth accused of dangerous driving in his €35,000 car. File photograph: Getty Images

 

A judge has described as “extraordinary” a request that the State grant free legal aid to fund the defence of a youth accused of dangerous driving in his €35,000 car.

The 17-year-old boy appeared on Thursday at Dublin Children’s Court, where Judge John O’Connor deferred ruling on whether the State will pay his legal expenses.

The boy, who cannot be named because he is a minor, is accused of dangerous driving in a 171-registered car and having no insurance at Long Mile Road in Dublin 12 on April 21st last. He has pleaded not guilty. The case will go to hearing next month.

His barrister, Damian McKeone, said there was an application for legal aid, but gardaí had objected to this, citing the fact the teenager was the registered owner of a high-powered car worth €35,000. The car was later registered again in the name of the youth’s father.

Mr McKeone said he was making the application on the principle that the youth is still a child.

The judge said he knew the car could have been bought on finance, but if it had been paid for with cash, then maybe the Revenue Commissioners should be involved in the event there was a money-laundering issue.

The judge said he wanted to know how the family was not able to afford legal aid when the boy had a car worth €35,000.

The teenager’s mother told the court the car had been a gift to her son from his father, but the boy “was not listening to his dad and his dad took the car off him because his behaviour was bad”.

‘Unusual objection’

The defence barrister said the teenager is working and earning €200 a week. He said it was unusual for objections to legal aid to be made in the juvenile court and the teenager was from a Traveller background. Mr McKeone argued it was inappropriate for gardaí to object based on circumstantial evidence.

The judge said gardaí had to bring the issue to his attention and he had an obligation in relation to public money.

The defence said the boy’s father, who was not present for the hearing, did not want to be involved.

The judge said he did not want a child to be unrepresented in court, but it was a case where a child had been given an incredible gift. He said he would like the father in court.

“Then we could sort out who is paying, the State or him [the father],” he said. He later added: “I would be happy if the father comes in and gives sworn evidence.”

“I don’t want him [the boy] to be without a solicitor or the solicitor to feel they will not be paid,” he said.

In relation to the car, he commented: “If that is the case it seems extraordinary for the State to be asked pay.”

He said he was not refusing the application but would adjourn ruling on that issue.