Thursday 23 May 2019

Man who told garda 'I had six pints' wins drink-driving case

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A man who informed a garda at the scene of a crash that he was after "six pints" has successfully contested a charge of drink-driving.

Noel Healy, 12 St Ita’s Terrace, Abbeyfeale, was charged with drunken driving before Judge David Waters at Listowel District Court on Thursday arising from the incident which occurred on April 4 of 2015 at Kilmeany, Kilmorna.

He won the case as the  length of time between the crash and the arrival of the gardaí at the scene could not be established.

Garda Frank Stafford said he spoke to four others at the scene after responding to the report of an accident and identified Noel Healy as the driver of the crashed car, which was ‘lying on its left-hand side having collided with a ditch, with the engine running and the keys still in the ignition’.

Gda Stafford said he cautioned Mr Healy and then quizzed him on matters and that Mr Healy told him he had been the driver.

The court heard that when asked what time he crashed, he replied; "No idea, about 30 minutes ago."

"Have you been drinking alcohol?" Gda Stafford asked him, saying Mr Healy responded; "Yeah, about six pints".

He also informed the garda he had bought the car earlier that day.

The garda said he arrived at the scene at 22.21 and that he noticed Mr Healy’s eyes were bloodshot and that there was a smell of alcohol from his breath.

He was arrested at 22.37, Gda Stafford said. Defence solicitor Pat Enright read from Gda Stafford’s statement of questioning at the scene:

"'What time did you crash the car?’

Answer: ‘I have no idea, about 30 minutes ago’."

Mr Enright asked the garda in court; "Do you accept that’s not exactly a definitive answer that could be relied upon for accuracy?"

Mr Enright also asked Gda Stafford if he had asked Mr Healy before caution if he had been the driver of the car.

“No, I did not. I asked generally who was driving. Upon making himself known to me I immediately cautioned him."

Inspector William Wallace asked Gda Stafford why he had attended the scene.

"We had received a call about a car accident," Gda Stafford replied.

Judge Waters remarked that he knew why the Inspector was asking this question, ‘but it could have happened two hours before’.

"I think the garda did all he could do, and he did it correctly. He spoke generally with the people at the side of the road, but the minute he determined the possible driver, he cautioned them. However the answer the defendant gave, before saying it was ‘half an hour ago’ was ‘I have no idea’."

Judge Waters said he appreciated it was a general problem for gardaí in establishing the time of accidents.

"The evidence is missing... given there is a vagueness I can’t assume it happened at that time so I will dismiss on that basis."

Mr Healy was fined €250 for driving without insurance.

Mr Enright urged the Judge to exercise his discretion in applying a disqualification period on the no insurance as his client, who is now on the ‘straight and narrow’ had been going through ‘difficulties.’

Judge Waters acceded to the request.


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