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Castlebar man’s claims of Garda ‘set up’ not believed

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Castlebar man’s claims of garda ‘set-up’ not believed


A CASTLEBAR man who has accused gardaí of trying to set him up was told by a judge that his evidence was not credible and was sentenced to 250 hours’ community service.
Martin Chambers (36) of 31 Hollow Grove, Castlebar, appeared before last week’s sitting of Belmullet District Court charged with driving without insurance on December 27, 2009, and January 13, 2010 – charges he fervently denied.
The father of one accused gardaí in Castlebar of stopping him at least 13 times while driving, and he said that he had complained to the Garda Ombudsman. He also told the court that he was told by a garda in a pub that he was being ‘set up’ and that the two prosecuting gardaí – Garda John Gallagher and Garda John Melia – had a bet between them over who would get him first.
However, Inspector Joe McKenna said the Garda Ombudsman had found that the gardaí had acted appropriately and there was no evidence to substantiate any of the allegations.

Lies and cover-ups
Mr Chambers claimed he had witnesses to verify his claim he was not driving. However, in an unusual twist, one of his witnesses, Walter Philbin, changed his story.
Mr Philbin had told Mr Chambers’s former solicitor, James Ward, that he had been the driver on January 13, 2010. He told last week’s court that he only did so because he was asked to  by Mr Chambers. He told last week’s court he was given a ‘sob story’ by the defendant, who said he would go to jail if he was convicted. Mr Philbin admitted that Mr Chambers had been driving, and he accepted he had been wrong to lie for him.
Garda Gallagher told the court he saw Mr Chambers driving a Honda Accord at speed in Castlebar at 1.03am on January 13, 2010 when there was frost and ice on the road. He followed him to his home on that date and when he asked him for his licence and insurance he was not able to produce them.
Mr Philbin said he bought the Honda Accord car from Mr Chambers but after it was giving him trouble he asked him for money to fix it. He met him in a pub in Castlebar and after a while Mr Chambers said he wanted to take it for a drive.
While they were driving Mr Chambers told him a ‘cop car was after us’ and they pulled into his estate and parked on the kerb.
In Mr Chambers’s version of events he claimed that Mr Philbin called to his home saying there was steam coming from the engine. He claimed he was looking under the bonnet when the unmarked Garda car called into his estate and pulled in beside them.
When asked by Inspector Joe McKenna if the court was expected to believe that the two men were looking under the bonnet of the car on a ‘bitterly cold night’ at 1.03am when Garda Gallagher arrived ‘per chance’, Mr Chambers replied, ‘I do, it happened.’
Garda John Melia told the court that he was going to work at 1.50pm on December 27, 2009 when he noticed Mr Chambers driving into Mulroy’s filling station in Castlebar. He spoke to him for a while wishing him a happy Christmas.
When Mr Chambers arrived at Castlebar Garda Station on January 13, 2010 he asked him to produce his insurance for driving on the day but was unable to do so.
Mr Chambers denied he was driving that day and claimed he was at his home all day drinking with a group of friends. Patrick Maloney vouched that he was in the house all day and said did not see Mr Chambers leave.

Pressurised

Ms Lynda Lenehan, solicitor for Mr Chambers said there was doubt in the evidence and that her client should get the benefit of the doubt.
However, Judge Denis McLoughlin said he did not find Mr Chambers’ evidence to be credible and convicted him of both offences. He said Mr Philbin was 21 years old at the time and was pressurised by an ‘older and worldwise person’ and had done the honourable thing by telling the truth.
Mr Chambers had 12 previous convictions for road traffic offences. Ms Lenehan said her client was self-employed as a courier and that losing his licence would be detrimental to his livelihood.
Judge McLoughlin said he was seriously considering imposing a prison sentence but decided to sentence Mr Chambers to 250 hours’ community service in lieu of five months’ imprisonment. He also disqualified him for driving for four years.