Tuesday 25 July 2017

State will pay High Court costs for validity of breathalyser test statements only if printed in English

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The State will pay High Court costs for a challenge to the validity of breathalyser test statements if printed in the English language only.

The case had its roots in a road traffic prosecution of Mihai Avadenei (29) with an address in Swords, Co Dublin.

During District Court proceedings in 2014, solicitor Michael Staines, for Mr Avadenei, argued that the statement produced from a breath-test machine was not valid because it was in English only.

District Court judge Colin Gibbons ruled that failure to produce the Irish half of the statement meant that it was not “duly completed” and he asked the High Court for confirmation.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan agreed and ruled that the person providing the specimen “shall be supplied immediately by a member of An Garda Síochána with two identical statements in the prescribed form”.

Mr Justice Noonan said a failure to reproduce an entire half of the prescribed form – the Irish language 'half' – meant it was not evidence and could not be admitted.

In May, the Court of Appeal overturned the ruling with Mr Justice John Edwards holding that the “deviation was purely one of form rather than substance”. What was omitted was the repitition of the information in Irish, he said.

The DPP sought costs for proceedings in the High Court as well as in the Court of Appeal but Mr Justice Edwards affirmed today/yesterday(THURSDAY) the High Court's earlier award for costs in favour of Mr Avadenei - which had been stayed pending an appeal. He made no order for costs in respect of the appeal.

Counsel for Mr Avadenei, Conor Devally SC, submitted that the instrument had since been repealed, it was a matter of significant public importance and the points raised had potential implications for a huge number of cases.

It was submitted that an individual ought not to be put at expense because a judge considers it necessary to ask a High Court judge for clarification.

Mr Justice Edwards said it was at the DPP's behest that the case be sent forward for clarification rather than at Mr Avadenei's request.

Mr Justice Edwards said special circumstances existed to justify a departure from the normal rule of costs following the event.

Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Alan Mahon both said they agreed with Mr Justice Edwards.

At the appeal hearing in February, counsel for the DPP, James Dwyer BL, told the court that 1,400 alleged drink-driving prosecutions were being held up across the country as a result of the ruling.

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