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Drink conviction overturned as gardai away on maternity leave

A WOMAN had her drink-driving conviction overturned on appeal yesterday because two gardai who were due to give evidence are on maternity leave.

Siobhan Kelly (22) was convicted of drink-driving at Barraduff, Killarney, Co Kerry, on December 6, 2009, but appealed her conviction to the Circuit Court.

Her solicitor, Padraig O'Connell, had applied to Judge Sean O Donnabhain for a peremptory adjournment at a sitting of Killarney Circuit Court in April because two state witnesses were not present to give evidence.

The court was told that the prosecuting garda, Irene Cullinane, and the garda who was operating the intoxiliser, Stephanie Hegarty, were both on maternity leave.

A peremptory adjournment means the matter will not be dealt with again if the State is not in a position to proceed with the case.

At yesterday's court sitting before Judge Terence O'Sullivan, Mr O'Connell said his client had been at every court sitting and had a right to have a summary appeal dealt with quickly.

He said Ms Kelly, of Shronedraught, Headford, Killarney, Co Kerry, had been assured that the matter would be dealt with at yesterday's sitting but the two gardai were still on maternity leave and would not be in court.

State solicitor Edward O'Sullivan said that although he would not normally seek a further adjournment where a peremptory adjournment had already been granted against the State, it was "inappropriate to expect gardai who are on maternity leave to be in court".


Judge O'Sullivan granted the appeal -- overturning the conviction -- despite his own reservations, because he said courts and judges had to be consistent.

"While I have some reservations, it's important for courts to follow a consistent line and the accused was told that the matter was definitely proceeding today," the judge said.

He acknowledged that although giving evidence in court was part of the duty of a garda, a female garda was not obliged to do this when she was on maternity leave.

But he said he also had to be consistent with his colleague, Judge O Donnabhain, who had made the adjournment peremptory at the last court sitting.

Irish Independent