Driver’s friend was ‘surfing’ on top of van - court hears

Buncrana courthouse.
Buncrana courthouse.

A Derry man drove around in circles at Buncrana pier as his friend ‘surfed’ on top of the van, a court has heard.

Ryan McGrory, 9 Rathlin Drive, appeared at Buncrana District Court at which he pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, which was later reduced to careless driving and having no insurance at Buncrana pier on September 30th last year.

Garda Inspector David Murphy told the court that at 12.30pm, Gda Hennigan, received a report claiming two males had been driving dangerously at the location.

He was informed a young man was driving a red Transit van in circles around the pier car park, with another young man standing on its roof. They then “switched positions.”

When the Garda arrived on the scene, he found two young men and one young woman walking beside the van. McGrory (23) admitted they had been driving in the manner described, adding he had not been “driving fast,” at around 10-15 miles per hour.

He was arrested and brought to Buncrana Garda Station, at which he also admitted he did not possess insurance to drive the van.

Inspector Murphy said McGrory has no previous convictions in this jurisdiction.

Defence solicitor Ciaran MacLochlainn said McGrory thought the car park was a private area and the owner of the van, Liam Lynch, had gone swimming.

He gave the keys to McGrory who, along with his friends was involved in “daft horseplay” at the pier wall and the other man stood on top of the van.

“He pretended he was surfing,” said Mr MacLochlainn.

“The young lady took photos and video to give the impression he was surfing along the pier,” he added.

Mr MacLochlainn said the report to Gardai was made by a retired Garda who was also on the pier.

“They thought they were in a private area and didn’t know what they were doing was illegal,” he said, adding McGrory told him he had been driving “at about five miles per hour.”

McGrory, giving evidence, said he had been in the van and pulled up alongside the pier wall, where his friend, named in court as ‘Niall’ was standing. His friend got on top of the van and McGrory put it into “first gear.”

He said: “I didn’t come out of first gear. I went around in a few circles. I got out and he got in. I got on top of the van too.”

McGrory told Judge Paul Kelly he understood his actions were “careless” and he was “glad no-one was hurt.”

“I do understand it could have went bad,” he said.

McGrory, who receives Job Seeker’s Allowance benefit in Northern Ireland, added he had applied for his driving licence and hopes to get work as a result.

He said he had “pulled a few pound” together and had 130 euro in court.

Inspector Murphy asked McGrory if he had seen any other cars at the pier, to which he replied there had been “one car,” that of the retired Garda.

“He drove past me and waved and I waved back,” he said.

When Inspector Murphy put to him that a witness claimed a number of cars had driven in and out of the pier car park while “this was all going on,” McGrory replied: “No, there were cars parked at the other end of the pier but no traffic.”

Judge Kelly told McGrory his actions were a “daft thing to do,” adding they could have fallen off the van and “suffered an injury.”

“These things can turn to tragedy very quickly,” said Judge Kelly, who added he accepted there was “no great speed involved.”

He reduced the dangerous driving charge to careless driving and fined McGrory 30 euro. He imposed a second fine of 100 euro for driving without insurance. He did not impose a disqualification.