Saturday 24 March 2018

Gardaí able to print drink-drive results in Irish but did not do so

The Evidenzer breath-test machine is under scrutiny after the latest drink-driving case in the High Court
The Evidenzer breath-test machine is under scrutiny after the latest drink-driving case in the High Court

Dearbhail McDonald and Daniel McConnell

Gardaí often printed out results from breath testing machines in the Irish language only if a suspect requested it, despite laws requiring them to be printed bilingually.

The Irish Independent has learned that the Evidenzer machines were fully capable of printing out result certificates in Irish as well as English.

But the failure to do so in all cases has led to emergency legislation and the potential collapse of hundreds of drink-drive prosecutions.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe was forced to close a statutory loophole after the High Court ruled breath alcohol test statements taken in garda stations had to be given in both languages, as prescribed by law.

The prosecution which led to the ruling took place in the District Court on July 2, 2014.

But the Department of Transport refused to say when Attorney General Maire Whelan was notified about the case, saying that that information was "confidential".

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is considering an appeal against the ruling.

Hundreds of drink-driving prosecutions around the country have been on hold pending the ruling - which found that evidence from an Evidenzer breath test taken from a suspected drink-driver could not be admitted. The results certificate had not been "duly completed" in the proper form, because it was only in English.

Testifying in the prosecution against suspected drink-driver Mihai Avadenei on July 2, 2014, the garda who took the breath test specimen said the only print-out from the Evidenzer machine was in English even though the machine can produce the certificate in Irish.

In its submissions, the DPP confirmed that Evidenzer Irl has the option of producing a statement in Irish.

The replacement Statutory Instrument enacted yesterday now provides that breath alcohol test statements may be produced in either the English or the Irish language.

Mr Donohoe said the DPP was now examining whether to appeal the High Court decision.

"This [road traffic] law is challenged every day in our courts," said Mr Donohoe. "At the same time I have a duty to do all I can to ensure our road traffic laws are robust to deal with all issues of dangerous driving."

Mr Donohoe could not say how many cases between last July and yesterday could be affected, explaining he was awaiting those details from gardaí and the DPP's office.

Asked if all convictions passed down by the District Court since July were safe, Mr Donohoe said it was under review.

Mr Donohoe stressed that only breath tests taken in garda stations are likely to be affected.

"I have to emphasise this does not apply to samples that were gained by the roadside.

It also does not apply to either blood or urine samples."

Irish Independent

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