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Dublin: 10 °C Friday 5 June, 2020
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Two men get two-month jail sentence for drunkenly sailing yacht up the Liffey

The court heard gardaí brought out on the water to help deal with the situation were told to “f*** off”.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Caroline Quinn

A YACHT CAPTAIN and his shipmate have been given two-month jail sentences for being drunk while erratically sailing a pleasure boat at Dublin Port.

Dublin Fire Brigade, a tugboat, a RNLI lifeboat, and gardaí had to get involved in the incident on the Liffey and the port’s shipping lane.

The sailors on a small 26-foot long quarter-tonne pleasure craft named the Peja refused to get out of the shipping lane and delayed the approach of the Corinthian, a 90-metre long 4,000-tonne cruise liner, Dublin District Court heard.

The case was listed again today for Judge John Hughes to decide what to do with the drunken sailors for their antics early in the morning of 1 June 2017.

He imposed sentences of three months, with the final month suspended in each case, and both were fined €1,000.

The Peja’s owner and yacht club member Brian Stacey, aged 46, of Derry Drive, Crumlin and co-defendant Ronan Stephens, aged 42, a former motorbike racer from Captain’s Road in Crumlin, were also ordered to complete alcohol awareness courses within six months.

However, they were released after they immediately lodged an appeal.

The court heard gardaí brought out on the water to help deal with the situation were told to f*** off. The yacht skipper insisted it was his “God-given right” to sail on the Liffey while his co-accused stripped off when he made landfall at Sir John Rogerson Quay where he was arrested.

They faced charges under the Maritime Safety Act. They denied careless sailing, operating vessel while intoxicated and engaging in threatening and abusive behaviour, at the Shipping Lane on the River Liffey.

After a six-day trial, Judge John Hughes found them guilty.

Sentencing, he said aggravating factors were the duration of the incident, their demeanour and conduct, risk of harm and a “total disregard” for the harbour authority.

However, he accepted neither intended serious or any injury to anyone and he said their offences, on a bright and beautiful summer morning, were impulsive in nature.

He noted their lack of remorse but also their health concerns.

‘Barrage of language’ 

Hours of CCTV footage were shown, evidence was given by Dublin Port harbour-master Michael McKenna as well as RNLI lifeboat skipper Mark McGibney. They described how the small boat was zigzagging on the shipping lane fairway.

The sailing boat was cornered and began circling between three other vessels: the RNLI boat, a Dublin Port tugboat and a Dublin Fire Brigade craft.

Garda Paul Moody went out on the water on the RNLI boat and jumped onto the harbour-master’s tugboat. He told defence barristers John Griffin and James Mulrean that he made a request to the pleasure craft sailors to desist.

He said he was met with a “barrage of language” and told “f*** you, who do you think you are, this is our right”.

He also said the defendants had been drinking on the sailing boat and were intoxicated.

Garda Patrick Collins said when Stacey also boarded the Dublin Port tug he was aggressive to the pilot and was “highly intoxicated”.

Stacey had told the court he and friends had gone for a sail early that morning at about 6am.

There was no alcohol on board and he could not remember the last time he had an alcoholic drink, he claimed.

Questioned about CCTV showing him drinking from bottles, he denied they contained beer and claimed they were a foreign brand of glass bottled water.

He accused the rescue boats and a harbour-master pilot’s boat of trapping his boat and he asked “what do you want?” but he added, “none of them would give me an answer”. He did not have a clue what was going on, he claimed.

The court heard he dropped off two passengers and went back onto the water. He later transferred to the pilot’s vessel and instructed Stephens to moor his boat.

He said that when he went onto the pilot’s boat someone in a yellow jacket was yelling at him and trying to push him into the water.

He said he explained to a garda on board that “I am a martial artist, if he has a go again, I will protect myself”.

He was fuming because the other boats were trying to destroy his pleasure craft, he said.

He said he had been sailing for 10 years and agreed best practice would have been to make radio contact with the harbour master earlier that morning. However, they did not answer the designated radio channel, he said.

He denied claims he used profanities and told the court, “I told them it was my God-given right to sail down the Liffey if I feel like it”.

He said he was not the sort of person that cursed. “I don’t believe what goes into my mouth defiles the body, it’s what comes out the mouth that defiles the body, that is why I look after the hygiene in my mouth,” he said.

“It was our God-given right to operate on the water,” he said.

Asked why he was seen removing a number of bottles when at one point he moored, he said he was cleaning out rubbish from his boat.

He said he was not breathalysed.

His boat was going at walking pace and was sailed erratically, he claimed.

Co-accused, Stephens, a former motorcycle racer, said he had to take over at the helm and dock the boat when his friend switched over to the harbour master’s vessel.

Stephens said he had never operated a motor boat before and was obeying his co-accused’s instruction because he was the captain.

He brought the pleasure boat to John Rogerson Quay at 8.20am.

CCTV evidence showed him being helped onto the quays where he removed all his clothing.

Stephens said he did that because there were armed gardai waiting and he was anxious and did not want to be shot.

He had to be helped because he suffered from arthritis and problems with his legs, he said. He also said his friend Stacey was very Christian and did not use bad language.

He said that there was any alcohol on boat and also claimed there was just bottled water. He also said he did not drink during the day-time.

The pleasure boat was seized and destroyed.

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Tom Tuite

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