A MOTORIST who saw a drunk driver collide with a tractor as he travelled to work at 7.45am took the man's car keys because he feared for his life and that of other motorists, a court has been told.
The details of the early morning incident on September 20, 2010, emerged at Listowel District Court as John Scanlon of Willowbrook, Clieveragh, Listowel, contested a drink driving charge.
Solicitor Charlie O'Connor argued that the prosecuting garda failed to detail the exact location of the offence in his evidence was this fatal to the State's case, as was a wrongly dated witness statement which contradicted the date on the summons. Judge Mary Larkin, however, ruled that the State had made its case lawfully and convicted the man.
The court was told that at 7.45am on September 20, 2010, gardaí were called to a scene on the Listowel - Tarbert Road (detailed on the summons as Murher, Moyvane) where they found a van stopped at the side of the road, along with a Scoda Octavia, which belonged to the defendant. Mr Scanlon was sitting in the driver's seat but the keys were not in the ignition. The car had a flat tyre and the driver's wing mirror was damaged.
Garda Daniel O'Mahony said the defendant, who smelled strongly of alcohol, insisted the last drink he had had was at 9pm the previous evening. He was arrested and a blood sample subsequently showed he was over the legal driving limit.
Eye witness Niall McElligott gave evidence of seeing the defendant's car at roadworks traffic lights and noticed it took him at least a minute to move on once the lights had gone green. He then drove slowly and eratically, veering across the road.
"At one stage I saw an articulated lorry coming against him and he was on the other side of the road and quickly swung back to his own side. The truck was flashing lights at him.," Mr McElligott said. "He then went around a dangerous bend and there was a tractor coming, pulling a slurry tank. and he clipped his mirror on the front tractor tyre."
Mr McElligott said the car continued a small bit further before coming to a stop. Another driver also stopped, got out of his car, and took Mr Scanlon's keys, which he handed to Mr McElligott before leaving the scene. Mr McElligott then phoned the gardai.
Under cross examination Mr McElligott said he and the other man chose to hold onto the keys because they feared for the life of the driver and other road users.
Judge Larkin convicted the defendant and banned him from driving for two years and fined him €500. He was also convicted and fined €500 for careless driving. Recognisance were fixed in the event of an appeal.