Mo­torists’ anger over re­ver­sal show­down

■ Driver faces charges after al­leged road rage on boreen

Irish Examiner - - News - Noel Baker

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.

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