Friday 24 November 2017

Transport Minister said State may appeal High Court ruling on drink driving laws to Supreme Court

Paschal Donohoe
Paschal Donohoe

Daniel McConnell Group Political Correspondent

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has said the State considering appealing to the Supreme Court yesterday’s High Court ruling on drink driving laws, which opened a major loophole in the legislation.

Mr Donohoe was forced to close the loophole this morning after the High Court decided yesterday that breath alcohol test statements had to be given in Irish and English.

Mr Donohoe this morning signed a ‘Statutory Instrument’ to close a loophole in the law that could have seen hundreds of motorists on drink-driving charges have their prosecutions thrown out.

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

Speaking in Dublin, Mr Donohoe said the Attorney General Maire Whelan and the Director of Public Prosecutions are now examining the virtue of appealing the High Court decision to the Supreme Court.

“That is under consideration at the moment. But the moment this ruling was made, and may I emphasise two things. Firstly, this law is challenged every day in our courts. 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. We will now consider whether a further appeal is necessary and the AG’s office are weighing up that option at the moment,” Mr Donohoe said.

Read more: Government rushes through new law to close drink-drive loophole after Irish-language ruling

Mr Donohoe was not in a position to say how many cases between last July and yesterday could be affected, saying he is awaiting those details from An Garda Siochana and the DPP’s office. Government sources have said the minister will get the information in the "coming days."

Asked if all convictions passed down by the District Court since July are safe,  Mr Donohoe only said : “That matter is under review, the main thing is we maintain the robustness of our road traffic laws.

While I am receiving advice I am not commenting any further.”

Mr Donohoe stressed that only breath tests taken in Garda stations are likely to be affected by yesterday’s ruling.

“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,” he said.

“Further to that, this morning I signed a new Statutory Instrument, bringing into effect the provision to allow the text to be supplied in either English or Irish.

Because of that Statutory Instrument, the loophole has now been closed. In relation to the number of cases that have been affected by this, the Garda Siochana and the DPP are currently looking at this issue at the moment. They will be supplying me with that information soon. One of the things they have to do is that this only applies to breath specimens. This does not apply to blood or urine,” Mr Donohoe said.

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