Garda who never sat driving test loses appeal over having no licence
Ciaran Folan’s driving skills caused concern for a Garda driving course instructor
Garda Ciaran Folan never applied for and never took a driving test and therefore could not have obtained a full driving licence, the court heard. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times
A garda whose driving skills led to the discovery that he had never sat a driving test has lost an appeal against his conviction for using a fake driving licence.
Ciaran Folan (46), of Lambstown Lane, Fethard-on-Sea, Co Wexford, had pleaded not guilty to four counts related to the use of a driving licence at Lambstown Lane, Fethard-on-Sea, on February 13th, 2009, knowing it to be a false instrument as well as knowingly using a document containing a false statement.
Folan was found guilty by a jury at Wexford Circuit Criminal Court and fined €3,000 by Judge Barry Hickson on December 13th, 2013.
Dismissing an appeal against his conviction, the Court of Appeal stated it had not been persuaded that Folan’s trial was unsatisfactory or that the verdict was unsafe.
Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Mr Justice George Birmingham said Folan, a Galway native and a garda since 1999, had applied for and was placed onto a Garda van driving course while stationed in the Wexford Division.
However, his driving skills and experience caused the instructor concern, the judge said.
Following an investigation, it emerged Folan had not completed the Garda car driving course which was a prerequisite for admission onto the van driving course.
Moreover, in order to take part in a Garda driving course, one had to have a category B driving licence.
Folan indicated on a “driver history sheet” that he held the appropriate licence. Contact was made with Galway County Council with a view to examining the original driving licence file but that file was not located.
Contact was made with the Road Safety Authority and with other sections of Galway County Council and it emerged that Folan had never applied for and had never taken a driving test and therefore could not have obtained a full driving licence, the judge said.
Certificate of competency
Mr Justice Birmingham said Folan had submitted a certificate of competency issued by An Garda Síochána in order to obtain a driving licence, according to records at Galway County Council. However, “no valid certificate of competency could ever have issued”.
It emerged Folan’s brother had been working in the driver licence section of the council and it was he, Brendan Folan, “who had processed the application” at the time the licence was issued, the judge said.
It was in the course of this investigation that Folan was asked by a Detective Inspector to produce a driving licence at Fethard-on-Sea, giving rise to the first two counts on the indictment.
Folan’s brother, Brendan Folan, was an employee of Galway County Council and his duties included issuing driving licences.
His council ID number appeared on key documentation in the Wexford trial, in particular the licence produced by Ciaran Folan at Fethard-on-Sea.
Brendan Folan was charged in Galway with a number of offences including the forging of a driving licence and an offence contrary to Section 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The trial judge in Galway directed a not guilty verdict in respect of the forgery offence and Brendan Folan was ultimately acquitted of the corruption offence.
In his appeal against conviction, lawyers for Ciaran Folan submitted that the trial judge in Wexford erred in permitting the prosecution to proceed on counts 1 and 2 on the indictment in light of the trial judge’s ruling in Galway.
Implicit in this argument, Mr Justice Birmingham said, was a belief that the Galway trial judge determined that the driving licence was authentic.
However, Mr Justice Birmingham said the argument was “quite misconceived”.
In the Court of Appeal’s view it was “absolutely clear that the acquittal of Brendan Folan in Galway did not prevent the trial of Ciaran Folan proceeding in Wexford”.
Folan’s lawyers also submitted that the Wexford trial judge erred in allowing counts 3 and 4 to be added to the indictment some three and a half years after the book of evidence had been served.
However, Mr Justice Birmingham said there was nothing to prevent the joinder of the additional charges. They were linked in certain respects. All involved a driving licence and what were alleged to be false claims in relation to Folan’s driving history.