Taxi driver acquitted of impersonating a Garda at meeting with prostitute
A Sligo taxi-driver has been acquitted of impersonating a garda while meeting a prostitute for sex in a hotel room.
John Feeley (50) of Moylough, Tubercurry had denied the charge of making a statement or doing an act calculated to falsely suggest he was a member of An Garda Síochána at the Clarion Hotel, Ballinode, Co Sligo on May 6, 2011.
After a two day trial at the Criminal Courts of Justice a jury of seven women and five men returned a verdict of not guilty after just over two hours of deliberations.
The trial heard evidence that Mr Feeley met the escort for sex in the hotel room. She alleged that he told her that he was “a police officer” and showed her some form of ID card which had the word “firearms” on it.
They had sex and she claimed he left without paying her. He was later arrested and told gardai he had paid her for sex but he denied ever telling her was a police officer or showing her any ID.
Delia Marie Flynn SC, defending, told the jury that there were only two people in the room and that there was no external evidence of the allegations, including no evidence of any fake ID card.
The trial heard that it is not a criminal offence to use the services of a prostitute or to exchange sex for money.
The woman said that this card looked official and had a name on it but she didn’t know the man’s name. She said she believed that he was a police officer.
She said she asked him if she was in trouble. They then had sex and Mr Feeley left without paying her any money, she told the court.
Mr Feeley was later arrested and admitted meeting the woman for sex but denied telling her he was a police officer. He told gardaí he had agreed to pay her €100 for half an hour after she had asked for a fee of €120. He said he paid this over to her before they had sex.
Ms Flynn asked jurors to consider why her client would ever have negotiated a fee if he had no intention of paying. Counsel said the allegations were made in vague terms and argued that there wasn't enough evidence to find her client guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
Bernard Condon SC, prosecuting, told the court that it was not an offence to use the services of a prostitute and that having sex for money in private was perfectly legal. He said that the only illegality was that the accused tried to pass himself off as a garda and that it was not in the public interest that people do this.
In garda interviews Mr Feeley denied impersonating a garda and said that he did not know it was a serious offence. He said that a passenger in his taxi had once claimed to be a garda and expected to pay nothing and to get “a freebie”.
Gardaí put it to Mr Feeley that he had told the prostitute he was a garda so he could get “a freebie” himself. He denied this and said he had paid the woman.
He told gardaí he had bargained her down in her fee because it was “part of the game” and he “was blackguarding her”.
By Declan Brennan