Saturday 22 July 2017

Gardaí fear many drink-drive cases will be thrown out

One judge has already struck out a case involving a driver who was alleged to have failed a breath test earlier this year
One judge has already struck out a case involving a driver who was alleged to have failed a breath test earlier this year

Greg Harkin

Gardaí fear that hundreds of drink-drivers will no longer face prosecution because of a legal challenge around the Irish language.

One judge has already struck out a case involving a driver who was alleged to have failed a breath test earlier this year.

Another judge in the same county, however, adjourned a similar case yesterday.

The case revolves around Mihai Avadenei, (29), from 60 Lioscianan, Swords, Co Dublin.

Dublin District Court heard last year that he was almost twice the drink-drive limit when stopped on the quays.

However, his lawyers argued that under the law, he should have been given a print-out of his breath test reading in both Irish and in English.

Last month, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan agreed in a High Court ruling. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Claire Loftus, is to appeal that ruling before the High Court.

She wrote to senior gardaí across the country last month, advising them to seek adjournments in all drink-drive cases pending the appeal to the Supreme Court.

However, at Donegal District Court, Judge Kevin Kilraine chose to strike out a case against a Galway man who failed a breath test in Donegal town last July. He ruled that the High Court decision was the current position.

"I can only deal with the law as it stands," he said.

The judge gave gardaí the right to re-enter the case at a future date.

Defence solicitor Jim Corbett told the Irish Independent: "I've no doubt there will be further ramifications in these cases.

"I argued that the law as it now stands takes precedence over everything else, and the judge agreed. Gardaí were given the liberty to re-enter the case and we will have to wait and see what happens next in the Supreme Court."

Separately, Judge Paul Kelly, sitting at Buncrana District Court, chose to adjourn a similar case until November 2 .

Gardaí fear that many cases may never be heard if they are not dealt with urgently.

"District court procedures based on case law do state that the High Court decision is the law right now," said one senior garda. "Where the law is in the defendant's favour, he or she is entitled to its benefit.

"Our biggest fear is that many cases dating back until 2013 and 2014 will not be heard until late next year.

"There may well be other defence arguments about cases not being dealt with in an appropriate timeframe. These may well be thrown out as a result."

Ultimately, decisions on whether to re-enter cases will rest with the DPP and that decision will come only after the Supreme Court rules on the matter, say gardaí.

"Our fear is that hundreds of motorists who failed breath tests may never face prosecution," said another senior garda.

Irish Independent

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