A FINE Gael councillor has successfully appealed a drink-driving conviction following an incident in which he sped away from a garda checkpoint before abandoning his car and hiding in a bush behind a churchyard.
Cllr Michael Hegarty (FG) brought a challenge against his conviction to Cork Circuit Criminal Court on the basis he had been unlawfully detained by pursuing gardai during the incident 12 months ago.
Mr Hegarty (52), who is a former chairman of the Cork Joint Policing Committee, was convicted of the offence in Youghal District Court last March.
He was disqualified from driving for two years, fined €600, and had his license endorsed.
Judge Terence Finn ruled that arresting gardai had behaved properly and fully within the regulations when dealing with Mr Hegarty on August 21, 2012.
However, Judge Patrick Moran yesterday held that he was satisfied there was a doubt over the circumstances of Mr Hegarty's initial detention and he allowed the appeal.
The conviction and resultant penalties are now overturned.
Gardai found the councillor, following a lengthy foot chase, behind a bush in a derelict site not far from the churchyard at Ballymacoda in east Cork on August 21, 2012.
The father of four had denied driving while over the alcohol limit.
Gardai said Mr Hegarty, of Moanroe, Ladysbridge, Co Cork, told them he had "panicked" when he saw the checkpoint.
The two gardai said they detected a smell of alcohol from Mr Hegarty and that he was speaking to them in a slurred voice.
A breath sample provided at the scene delivered a 'fail' reading.
An intoxyliser test at Midleton garda station later delivered a result of 61 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. This was almost twice the permitted alcohol driving limit.
However, Mr Hegarty's legal team argued that he was placed in a garda car before he was cautioned and formally detained.
They argued that this represented unlawful and improper detention with everything that happened afterwards effectively inadmissible.
The judge said he had a sufficient doubt over the detention to allow the appeal.