Sunday 4 December 2016

Drink-drive limbo following cert row

Dearbhail McDonald and Rachel Lavin

Published 24/09/2015 | 02:30

A High Court ruling has said that breath alcohol test certificates must be produced in English and Irish
A High Court ruling has said that breath alcohol test certificates must be produced in English and Irish

Gardaí have been adjourning drink driving cases already progressing through the criminal justice system following a High Court ruling which said that breath alcohol test certificates must be produced in English and Irish.

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The Irish Independent has learned that drink driving prosecutions due to be heard this week have been adjourned in District Courts around the country - including major court circuits such as Cork and Dublin.

Gardaí are meanwhile seeking to identify what type of drink driving detection tests are being used to ground convictions and to see what the fallout from the ruling is.

The situation stems from the fact that Evidenzer breath testing machines, which operate in 86 garda stations, were required to produce results in both English and Irish under four-year-old regulations.

However, gardaí were producing Irish language results only if requested by a suspect, despite the fact the Ezidenzer devices are capable of printing in both languages.

Under emergency measures enacted on Tuesday, the certificates can be used as evidence in court if produced in either English or Irish.

The now-closed loophole affected breathalyser results gleaned from alcohol specimens taken in garda stations.

It does not apply to roadside breath tests or alcohol and blood tests use to assess alcohol concentration.

However, an unknown number of cases are in limbo pending the ruling involving a Romanian man suspected of drink driving who successfully challenged his prosecution and conviction because his Evidenzer results were not produced to him in Irish.

Appeal

The Office of the DPP, which is considering an appeal against the ruling, would not comment on the matter.

Last Monday, the day of the ruling, Garda Inspector Tom Kennedy told a court in Ennis that nationwide instructions from the DPP are to seek adjournments in drink-driving cases pending an appeal.

Gardaí and the DPP are compiling figures for Transport Minister Paschal Donohue on the number of suspected drink drivers who may now be immune from prosecution.

Conradh na Gaeilge, the Irish language forum, has warned that any new law that changes the requirements that citizens are provided with alcohol breath statements in both English and Irish may be "a slippery slope" in denying Irish speakers their language rights.

General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge Julian De Spáinn, said that this revised law was deflecting blame from the Gardaí who had made the mistake of not providing bilingual statements.

"The main point we have is that this mistake that was made by the Gardaí should never have been made," said Mr De Spáinn.

Irish Independent

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