AN 18-year-old student has been prosecuted for "drunk-cycling" after gardai feared he would cause an accident.
Ghanaian national Sylvanus Akpaku yesterday pleaded guilty at Ennis District Court to the new offence of 'drunk-cycling' under the 2010 Road Traffic Act.
Mr Akpaku, of Church View, Barefield, Ennis, Co Clare, pleaded guilty to driving a pedal cycle under the influence to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the bicycle at Barefield, Ennis, on September 13 last.
Insp Tom Kennedy, who prosecuted the case, said yesterday that in his 12 years of prosecuting offences in the district court, it was the first time that he had come across anyone charged with 'drunk-cycling'.
Those convicted face fines of up to €2,000.
In court, Insp Kennedy said that at around 11pm on September 13 last, Garda Eimear McDonagh observed Mr Akpaku cycling in an erratic manner in the middle of the road near Barefield.
Gda McDonagh said Mr Akpaku, a Leaving Cert student at Ennis Community College, was wearing no reflective gear, and when stopped by the garda patrol car the teenager was slurring his words and there was a smell of alcohol from him.
The 'drunk-cycling' charge was the first such charge to come before Judge Patrick Durcan and he told Insp Kennedy: "I don't think I can disqualify him from cycling, can I?"
"It would be funny if it wasn't so serious as there are cyclists and pedestrians being killed on the road because they are not lit up and in some cases under the influence of alcohol," Insp Kennedy said.
Solicitor for Mr Akpaku, Tara Godfrey, said that what her client did by cycling while drunk with no reflective gear "was dangerous and foolish".
Ms Godfrey said that Mr Akpaku said he had drank cider after hearing that his grandfather had died.
"You could have caused a terrible accident," Judge Durcan said. "Mr Akpaku is a very impressive young man and I don't want to criminalise him and I will strike out the charge."
Insp Kennedy said yesterday that the prosecution of Mr Akpaku "sends out the message that those who drink and cycle and don't wear reflective gear at night will be prosecuted".
Corporate affairs manager with the AA Conor Faulknan welcomed the prosecution. He said: "This prosecution sends out an important signal to the public as there has been a blind spot in prosecuting cyclists and leniency shown towards them for being drunk or having no lights while cycling."