Motorists’ anger over reversal showdown
■ Driver faces charges after alleged road rage on boreen
A court has found that a man hit another vehicle with an iron rod in an alleged roadrage “showdown” sparked by a reluctance by two motorists to reverse on a West Cork boreen.
J a a p Va n H e m m e m , o f F r i e n d l y C o ve r H o u s e i n Durrus near Bantry, faced two charges in relation to the i n c i d e n t w h i ch u n fo l d e d near Durrus on April 20, 2018. They were use of insulting or threatening or abusive word; and behaviour; and criminal damage.
At Bantry District Court Tracy Holt, aged 53, said she was driving on the Mine Road near Durrus at around 4.20pm and encountered a Nissan being driven by Mr Van Hemmem coming in the opposite direction.
J ud g e J a m e s M c N u l t y was told both cars stopped and both motorists looked at each other. Ms Holt said she felt there was nowhere behind her to reverse into, and she ultimately got out of the car and asked Mr Van Hemmem to reverse.
He did so and she alleged when passing she said to him “see, it wasn’t that far for you to go” — at which point Mr Van Hemmem slapped h e r w i n g m i r ro r . S h e a d mitted she then called him “a bastard” and that, at that point, he produced what she said was an iron bar, hitting her car twice on the driver side. The court also heard that the cars scraped each other as they passed on the narrow road. She said she felt scared and described the encounter as “surreal”, adding that she called gardaí immediately.
Mr Van Hemmem denied having any iron bar and his solicitor, Ray Hennessy, argued that the cars were in such close proximity while passing that his client would have been unable to strike Ms Holt’s car as alleged.
Mr Van Hemmem, aged 44, said he had simply shrugged during the initial stand-off and that he did ultimately reverse 250 yards to facilitate Ms Holt when she could have reversed just two car lengths. He alleged she made a remark that “you young guys are always up for a fight”, to which he said: “If you are going to drive these roads maybe learn how to drive first.” He claimed Ms Holt had then opened her car door onto his car, and he had slapped her wing mirror.
Judge McNulty found Mr Van Hemmem was not guilty of insulting or abusive words and behaviour and said while Ms Holt was “unders t a n d a bl y s t re s s e d ” a n d m a y b e “b o l s h y ” , M r Va n Hemmem’s comment about driving was condescending and arrogant.
The judge said the criminal damage charge was proven but because of Mr Van Hemmem’s good record and lack of previous convictions he would deal with it by way of conditional discharge on a b o nd o f € 5 , 0 0 0 , n o c a s h required, provided Mr Van Hemmem keep the peace for three years. Recognisance for any appeal was set at Mr Van Hemmem’s own bond of €100, no cash required.