|Priest's Testimonial Refused in Court
By John Fallon
The Irish Times
December 24, 2009
A JUDGE has refused to accept a character reference from a parish priest who tried to prevent a repeat drunk driver from being jailed.
Judge Geoffrey Browne said he did not wish to see a letter of reference being offered in his court from a parish priest, although he took into account references provided by a relative of the defendant, and a neighbour.
Frank Coen (44), Brackloon, Ballyglunin, Co Galway, was before Tuam District Court on charges of drink-driving and having no insurance.
Coen had a number of previous convictions including one for a hit-and-run in 2007, one for drink-driving, and for refusing to give a breath specimen. His solicitor James Glynn told Judge Browne that he had letters from the parish priest, a relative and a neighbour concerning the defendant.
“I don’t want a reference from a parish priest. I have not time for that,” said Judge Browne.
He took into account the letters provided by the neighbour and a niece of the defendant.
Coen was arrested by Garda Michelle Hallinan on July 13th this year and was found to have a concentration of 65 micrograms of alcohol per 100ml of breath.
He had no insurance on the occasion as he was driving while disqualified, and Mr Glynn said his client understood that he risked a term of imprisonment. The solicitor said Coen had difficult family circumstances and was looking after his 17-year-old daughter.
Judge Browne said that in view of the contents of the letters from Coen’s neighbour and niece he was not going to impose a prison sentence, but warned Coen he would be jailed if he came before him in the next two years.
Coen was fined ˆ500 and disqualified from driving for four years in relation to the drink-driving charge. He was also given a one-month prison sentence, which was suspended provided he keeps the peace for two years.
Coen was fined ˆ250 for having no insurance and disqualified from driving for two years, concurrent with the other disqualification.
Earlier this month Judge Donagh McDonagh was highly critical of a character reference given by Fr Sean Sheehy at the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee when security man Danny Foley was sentenced to seven years in jail for sexually assaulting a woman. Fr Sheehy later stepped down from duties as Castlegregory parish priest.
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