Judge tells man he must prove ownership of tools found in crashed car

April 10, 2024

A man who sought the return of valuable power tools from a car abandoned in Donegal was told by a District Court Judge that they couldn’t be handed over unless he proved ownership.

Darren Leonard appeared before Ballyshannon District Court in an attempt to get the tools, which he claimed he left in the boot of a car he sold on.

After the car was crashed and abandoned in Donegal, Mr Leonard was contacted by gardai as the last registered owner and he informed officers that he had sold the vehicle.

Mr Leonard was granted the return of a Milwaukee gun, but a forfeiture order was made by other items, which he could not prove ownership of.

Garda Robert Carey outlined to the court that on July 17, 2023 at 10.30pm he received a call from a local farmer regarding a vehicle that had crashed.

Garda Carey was told that two males got out of the car and managed to pull the vehicle from a drain.

The men knocked on the door of a local farmer, Paul Gallagher, who said he did not want the vehicle on his property.

When Garda Carey arrived, he observed a blue BMW 3 Series, with major frontal damaged, parked on the farm.

Having been informed that two men left the scene, gardai seized the car.

Gardai carried out enquiries with colleagues in the PSNI and spoke to Mr Leonard, who was the last person registered as having been insured on the vehicle.

Mr Leonard told gardai that it had nothing to do with him and he sold the vehicle to males he did not know.

Garda Carey said that there were ‘various power tools and socket sets’ in the boot of the car.

Garda Carey told the court that he was contacted by Mr Leonard a ‘few weeks later’ about the property left in the boot.

Mr Leonard was informed that the items were already subject to a police property application and that he would have to prove that the property belonged to him.

Garda Carey said that gardai were unable to make contact with the new owner of the vehicle.

“I am here to reclaim my tools,” Mr Leonard told Judge Monika Leech. “They happened to be left in the boot.”

Inspector Logue asked Leonard if he had proof of ownership of the items. Via an app on his mobile phone, Mr Leonard was able to show proof of purchase for a Milwaukee gun.

Leonard told the court that he would not be able to get receipts to prove ownership for the other items.

Inspector Logue suggested that the matter could be adjourned for a month.

Mr Leonard said that he would be unable to obtain any proof for the court.

“I have collected these tools over a lifetime,” he said and Inspector Logue reiterated the forfeiture application.

Judge Leech said that, having carefully listened to the evidence, she accepted, on balance, that there was an item, a Millwauke gun, that belonged to the respondent.

No order was made in respect of that item.

However, Judge Leech said that, in relation to the balance of the items, there had been nothing established regarding the ownership.

Judge Leech made an order as applied for by An Garda Siochana for the forfeiture of the tools to the State.

An irate Mr Leonard asked: “Would you like me to buy them back?”

Judge Leech told Leonard that that was a “matter for you if you wish to discuss with the Gardai”.

As he left the courtroom, Mr Leonard repeatedly stated: ‘that’s garda corruption for you’.