A 27-year-old man reared-ended a taxi on purpose so that passengers in the taxi could make a false insurance claim for personal injuries.
Barry Hynes, a father of two, from 40 Cullairbaun, Athenry, pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court in October to attempting to commit deception, involving a staged road traffic accident at Carnmore Cross, Galway, on October 16, 2014, by inducing FBD insurance to pay out on an insurance claim for the staged accident, with the intention of making a gain for himself or causing a loss to FBD, contrary to Section 6 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001, and contrary to Common Law.
Sentence was adjourned to today for the preparation of a probation report on Hynes.
Detective Tom Doyle told the sentence hearing Hynes had been coerced and bullied by others into getting involved in the staged accident.
He said the main protagonist, who is the subject of an ongoing investigation and was not named in court, had bought the Passat car which Hynes was driving a few weeks before the accident was staged and had paid the deposit for an insurance policy which Hynes obtained from FBD for the 17-year-old car.
Det Doyle said from his investigations he found that four passengers, who were all related to the unnamed main protagonist or “accident arranger” got a taxi from a hotel in Oranmore to another hotel in Claregalway, six miles away.
Hynes rear-ended the taxi while it was stopped at traffic lights at Carnmore Cross, halfway between both hotels.
The taxi driver, who was unaware of the scam, told Gardai later that the impact was just a slight bump and no material damage was done to either car. The passengers said they were okay and both drivers exchanged insurance details at the scene, he said.
All four passengers in the taxi subsequently lodged claims against FBD insurance and the personal injuries board for personal injuries.
FBD launched an investigation and monitored social media contact which proved the parties involved were all related in some way.
Hynes was interviewed by FBD investigators and admitting knowing those involved. He said he was to be paid €600 and given a mobile phone for rear-ending the taxi.
FBD contacted Gardai and Det Doyle began his investigation.
He did a trawl of mobile phone activity between Hynes and the “arranger” before the accident occurred.
“FBD has not paid compensation to any of the parties involved in the accident,” Det Doyle added.
He agreed with defence counsel, James Charity, that Hynes had no previous convictions and was unlikely to reoffend.
He said Hynes had co-operated fully in the Garda investigation and was now living in fear of retaliation by the ‘arranger’.
“I believe he was bullied into doing this,” Det Doyle added.
He agreed with Mr Charity that it would have been very difficult to detect what had happened but for the full admissions made by Hynes to FBD investigators.
He said his client had got “cold feet” on the day and had not hit the taxi at the first opportunity. The “arranger” had been very angry with him and he did give the taxi “a slight bump” when the taxi approached the traffic lights on the return journey.
Afterwards, the passengers in the taxi were angry with him because he had not hit the taxi hard and had only nudged the car. He was given a broken mobile phone on the journey home.
Judge Rory MacCabe asked if other prosecutions had been taken or were they pending. Det Doyle confirmed Hynes had been fully co-operative, and while this was a stand-alone prosecution the investigation was ongoing.
Adopting the recommendations of a probation report which was handed into court, Judge MacCabe directed Hynes carry out 240 hours’ community service in lieu of a two-year prison sentence.
Afterwards the hearing, Jackie McMahon, Chief Claims Officer at FBD Insurance said: “We robustly defend suspect claims as otherwise our customers will pay for the fraud of others. This result sends a clear signal that the courts will not allow insurance fraudsters to cheat the majority of consumers. We hope this case will act as a severe deterrent to anyone considering insurance fraud.
“Insurance fraud ultimately costs everybody in the price they pay for their insurance. Suspected fraud will be vigorously contested, with the perpetrators brought to justice.”
Social media ban for revenge porn accused
A 26-year-old man has been barred from using all social media platforms since being charged with harassing his former girlfriend by allegedly posting sexually explicit photos of her online along with links to her Snapchat account.
It is the first prosecution of its type relating to image-based abuse, more commonly referred to as ‘revenge porn’ to come before the courts in Galway.
Judge Mary Fahy imposed restrictions, prohibiting the publication of the man’s identity when he was first brought in custody before Galway District Court last October.
This week, she asked Sergeant Christy Burke, prosecuting, why had she imposed the restrictions at the time. He reminded her she had imposed the restrictions then as the case involved sexually explicit material.
Garda Paraic Moran gave evidence in October of having arrested and charged the man with harassing his former girlfriend on a date unknown between August 1, 2015 and July 10, 2019, contrary to Section 10 (1) and (6) of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.
The accused made no reply when the charge was put to him at the time.
The Director of Public Prosecutions directed the charge could only be dealt with at District Court level if the man entered a guilty plea.
Judge Fahy asked Garda Moran for an outline of the allegations made against the accused so she could decide on whether or not to deal with the case in her court should he plead guilty.
Garda Moran said the man had been in a relationship with the complainant and it was alleged that sometime after they broke up, she was contacted by a couple whom she didn’t know, inviting her to meet them for sex.
As a result of this encounter, the woman discovered intimate photographs of her were circulating on the internet.
She had sent the photos to the accused when they were together and it was alleged, Garda Moran said, that after the relationship ended the accused uploaded the photos to the internet on several occasions with links to the complainant’s Facebook Snapchat account.
Judge Fahy accepted jurisdiction in October to hear the case in her court and she made an order for prosecution statements to be sent to defence solicitor, Brian Gilmartin’s office and for the accused to come to court this week and elect to either plead guilty or not guilty to the charge.
Sgt Browne informed the court this week the statements had inadvertently not yet been sent to Mr Gilmartin but they would be now.
Judge Fahy remanded the accused on continuing bail to appear back before the court in March and elect then whether he wanted to plead guilty or not guilty.
Bail was granted in October subject to conditions sought by Gardai that he have no contact with the complainant or any witnesses, by any means to include social media; continue to reside at his rental address in the city and notify Gardai of any change of address within 48 hours; sign on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Garda HQ at Murrough, Renmore; observe a nightly curfew between 10p.m. and 6a.m.; be of good behaviour and remain of sober habits; and provide a mobile phone number to Gardai and answer his phone to them at all times.
Judge Fahy added a further condition at the time prohibiting the man from accessing Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok and all other social media platforms, pending completion of the case.
She awarded him free legal aid and also advised him that if he broke any of the bail conditions it was likely he would end up in custody, due to the seriousness of the charge he was facing.
Help at hand for smokers with resolve!
The HSE has launched their annual free programme to help smokers at the start of the new year to try to kick the habit as research shows that 70% of smokers want to give up for good.
With packets of cigarettes now retailing at €15 a pop, there has never been a better time to quit – even if health reasons are not a consideration.
But the impact on health should help make that decision even more urgent, according to the Irish Cancer Society.
The HSE has found that half of all smokers die from smoking-related diseases. In 2015 records show that 5,950 people died as a direct result of smoking, with an additional 100 deaths thought to be the result of exposure to second-hand smoke.
The benefits of become a non-smoker quickly become apparent. The US Surgeon General’s Office insists that after 72 hours of quitting, breathing becomes easier as the bronchial tubes relax and energy levels increase.
After a fortnight circulation improves, making walking and exercise easier. After three to nine months: coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing are reduced dramatically. After five years the risk of heart attack falls to that of a non-smoker while after a decade the risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker.
“The first thing is to realise that quitting smoking is a process, and it is important to understand where you fit in the process or ‘cycle’ of change,” said a spokesperson for the Irish Cancer Society.
“You need to plan when and how you’re going to quit. If you can get through the first 30 days without cigarettes, you’ll have gone a long way towards kicking the habit.”
The Quit Smoking West Service offers six free sessions with a HSE Stop Smoking Advisor. This therapist will explore habits and any concerns you have about stopping smoking. They will assess your level of smoking addiction, provide support to deal with challenges and discuss stop smoking medications.
“We know that quitting can be extremely difficult. But by working with us, we will support you to develop a plan to help you to cope with withdrawal symptoms and cravings, and provide you with motivational tips to help keep you on track,” a spokesperson for the service explained.
Call Quit Smoking West on (091) 737262 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for the free, confidential support and advice.
Gort set for transformation under regeneration plans
The revitalisation of the town of Gort received another major shot in the arm last week when it was one of 27 landmark projects to share in the latest €21.5 million Rural Regeneration Development Fund.
The Gort Inse Guaire project received €798,000 towards the re-design of the Market Square and town centre streets, as well as reinvigorating the Canon Quinn Park greenspace in the town centre.
The Gorgeous Gort Forum – the representative body for all local community groups, clubs and organisations which drove this application – welcomed ‘the wonderful news’.
“We thank the Minister for approving funding for our town, and all the team in Galway County Council who we supported in developing and submitting this application and the local representatives who supported this application.
“We also thank the over 40 organisations, clubs and groups in our community, who we represent, that provided invaluable letters of support’, said Gorgeous Gort Forum chairperson Justin McDermott.
The Forum supported Galway County Council in the development and submission of this application. This included organising letters of support from over 40 various clubs, organisations, and groups in Gort which they represent.
The group also facilitated meetings between Galway County Council and key community stakeholders, and worked with local elected representatives, including Minister Anne Rabbitte, Sean Canny TD, Ciaran Cannon TD and local councillors including Joe Byrne, PJ Murphy, and Geraldine Donoghue, to lobby the minister on behalf of the community.
The news was warmly welcomed from all fronts, with local TD Ciaran Cannon describing it as an ambitious investment in Gort, building on a very strong community spirit in the town.
And his fellow Galway East TD Sean Canney particularly welcomed the work on Canon Quinn Park, which he described as ‘an underutilised yet vital greenspace within the centre of the town’.
“In order to capitalise on this invaluable resource, the park requires diversification and redesign to improve usages, discourage anti-social behaviour and provide a green lung for the town centre,” he said.
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