A decision on whether or not a car “borrowed” by a Carndonagh man from his Welsh brother-in-law is liable for VRT will be made in September.
John Doherty, Glenmakee, Carndonagh pleaded not guilty at Carndonagh District Court to the charges of having an unregistered vehicle and obstructing/impeding or resisting the seizure of a car on October 20th, 2010 at Convent Road, Carndonagh.
Customs officer Anthony Lynch told the court he had previously stopped Doherty in the vehicle on April 14, 2010 at the Mullins, Carndonagh. He was driving a Vauxhall Sierra. Officer Lynch asked Doherty if he owned the vehicle and he replied it belonged to his brother-in-law, who lived in the UK. Officer Lynch said Doherty was “evasive” and “verbally abusive.” Officer Lynch and his colleague gave Doherty documents which informed him he had 14 days to regulate the vehicle.
On October 20, 2010, the officer encountered the same vehicle at Convent Road, Carndonagh. He told the court he heard his colleague, Officer Connolly, ask Doherty for identification. Doherty replied: “Ask that idiot over there,” referring to Officer Lynch. Both officers were in full uniform and Gardai were present. Doherty was asked if he had regulated the vehicle and he confirmed he hadn’t. When he was told the vehicle was being seized, he refused to hand over the keys. He also told the officers they had “no power” to seize the vehicle.
Doherty was handed a notice of seizure. Officer Lynch said Doherty was “abusive, wound up and aggravated.”
“He had his mind made up that we hadn’t the power to take the car,” he said.
Defence solicitor Mr Gerard Doyle put it to Officer Lynch that he took down in his notes the name and address of Doherty’s brother-in-law Mr Norman Smith,.
The officer replied there was a “lot of shouting going on” and questions were “coming in.” He said they did not have access to the UK datebase.
Officer Connolly then gave evidence, corroborating Officer Lynch’s evidence. he also told the court Doherty told him he had “no power” to seize the vehicle. He said he reminded Doherty he had been given a “full six months” to register the car.
Officer Connolly said events were “getting heated” and it was decided the best course of action would be to let Doherty proceed. They did this after informing him they’d be reporting the matter with a view to a prosecution.
Mr Doyle put two applications to strike the matter out to the court. The first related to whether the officers had the power to seize the vehicle. Mr Doyle said that by Doherty telling them they did not have the power, he was effectively asking them for proof. Mr Doyle said the officers were required to provide this under the 2005 Act.
He said: “While he did not say the specific words, it is conceded by the State he asked for that and it was up to them to show authorisation.”
Prosecuting solicitor Mr Ciaran Liddy responded by stating that no request had been made for proof of authenticity. He said both officers had been quite clear in making their reasons for demand.
After requesting to see the Act, Judge Kelly did not rule in favour of Mr Doyle’s application, stating the officers were not asked to produce relevant documentation.
Mr Doyle’s second application related to a case law by the European Court. This cited a Dutch couple , driving a car in the Netherlands, which had been lent to them by a German national. Mr Doyle told the court the VRT legislation in Holland was similar to Ireland. He said the European court was asked to take into account whether a person who had borrowed a car from a national of another member state for a short period of time was liable to pay full VRT upon it. The court ruled that if the vehicle was given on a permanent basis, they were liable for the full amount of tax. They were not liable if it was only given temporarily.
Mr Doyle told the court the car driven by Doherty had been registered in the UK “each and every year” since 2009. He said it was also insured in the UK by the owner, Mr Smith.
He said that following the judgement, the onus was on the state to prove the car was given on a permanent basis.
He said: “There is no ambiguity. The Irish State must interpet their own laws to be in accordance with this.”
Mr Liddy replied that Doherty had been stopped on two occasions, six months apart.
“Time was permitted, but wasn’t attended to,” he said.
Judhe Kelly put it to Mr Doyle that being detected twice in six months could allow the court to infer it was in the State on a permanent basis. Doherty was not in court, as he is employed by an alternative enery company and is in the US.
Mr Liddy said he had “no difficulty” if Doherty wanted to come to court in the future and address the matter.
Mr Doyle replied that as it was a criminal proseuction, his client did not have to prove any part of the matter. Judge Kelly said he also had to take into account Doherty’s demeanour. He adjourned the case until the September court for Doherty to give eveidence.