Tuesday 18 June 2019

Court ruling gives green light to 1,500 drink-drive cases

An intoxilyser of the type used by gardaí for testing drivers.
An intoxilyser of the type used by gardaí for testing drivers.

Tim Healy and Shane Phelan

Hundreds of motorists whose drink-driving prosecutions were put on hold should now have their cases dealt with following a significant Supreme Court ruling.

As many as 1,500 cases were delayed after a Romanian man challenged his prosecution on the basis that he had not been supplied with a breath-alcohol statement in Irish, as well as in English.

Mihai Avadenei successfully challenged his prosecution in the High Court in 2015, but that judgment was overturned by the Court of Appeal last year.

Yesterday, a five-judge Supreme Court unanimously rejected an appeal by Mr Avadenei, paving the way for prosecutions which had been on hold to proceed.

Although some District Court judges exercised their discretion to dismiss prosecutions on the basis of delay, it is believed that the vast majority of the 1,500 or so affected cases are still able to proceed.

Giving the Supreme Court judgment, Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley stressed that the issues to be decided did not relate to any asserted constitutional entitlement to an Irish-language version of the statement relied upon to prove the breath-alcohol level, but rather its evidential status.

She found that while the relevant regulations require a single bilingual form to be provided in two identical versions, Section 12 of the Interpretation Act applied because the deviation from the prescribed form did not materially affect the substance of the form.

As a result, no right of Mr Avadenei was breached.

Mr Avadenei, of Swords, Co Dublin, was stopped by a garda when he was doing 80kmh in a 50kmh zone in the early hours of April 21, 2014.

He was breathalysed at Store Street garda station but the intoxilyser apparatus printed out the results in English only.

Mr Avadenei, who was represented by solicitor Michael Staines, later successfully argued in the High Court that the form was invalid as it was not also printed in Irish and his prosecution was halted.

The case centred on interpretation of the Road Traffic Act 2010 and whether or not a print-out is a "duly completed" document for use in evidence if it is not printed in both English and Irish.

The Court of Appeal overturned the High Court ruling following an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Supreme Court then agreed to hear an appeal by Mr Avadenei against the Court of Appeal judgment.

Giving the Supreme Court judgment, Ms Justice O'Malley said that she agreed with the appeal court's analysis and finding.

Irish Independent

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