Monday 19 November 2018

Driver crashes close to Garda Station - runs off

Driver found hiding behind a wall but solicitor submits he ended up being arrested on two occasions

Paul Deering

A driver who crashed his car at 3.40am into a wall near Sligo Garda Station, took off running when Gardaí arrived on the scene but was located a short while later hiding behind a wall.

The driver was handcuffed and put into a patrol van after he was found near Abbey Street and he was brought back to the scene of the crash at Old Market Street where he was subsequently arrested for drunk driving by a different Garda.

Defence solicitor, Mr Gerard McGovern argued that in effect, the defendant, Joseph Curran (22) of Rusheen Ard, Caltragh had been arrested twice, once at Abbey Street and the other at Old Market Street, which was not legal.

Garda Dermot Fearon, in evidence, said he was leaving Sligo Garda Station at 3.40am on April 3rd 2017 when he observed a black VW Passat passing up Teeling Street and turn into Old Market Street.

He then heard a bang and believed the Passat had crashed. He got into a patrol car with a colleague and drove across to Old Market Street where he saw that the 2003 registered Passat had crashed into a wall. Two people got out of the car, the driver wearing a green polo shirt was quite tall.

Garda Fearon went to speak with the driver who was walking away from him. He then ran off. He attempted to give chase but the driver was faster and he got away.

He ran off in the direction of the Garda Station. The witness rang the station in order to alert other Gardaí and a short time later he received a message stating that a man fitting a description of the driver had been located at Abbey Street by Garda Mark Irwin.

The man was brought back in a patrol van to the scene of the crash at Old Market Street and Garda Fearon said he was satisfied it was the same person who had ran off after getting out of the crashed car. Garda Fearon said there was a strong smell of alcohol from the defendant's breath and his speech was somewhat slurred. He admitted to having been drinking.

"I panicked. I broke up with my girlfriend and I had a few pints after work," Curran told the Garda.

The defendant was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving at 3.35am and brought to Ballymote Garda Station arriving at 4.16am. A sample provided by the defendant on the intoxiliser machine showed a reading of 71mgs per 100mls of breath.

In reply to Mr Gerard McGovern, solicitor (defending), Garda Fearon said he had been standing in the porch of the Garda Station when the Passat car passed up. He did not see who was driving at that stage.

"On who was driving, no but on who was exiting the vehicle, yes" - Garda. The Garda agreed that when the driver returned to the scene he was handcuffed.

Mr McGovern asked what the defendant's status was at this stage. Garda Fearon said as far as he was concerned Curran was not arrested on his return.

Mr McGovern suggested that the defendant was surely arrested at that stage having been handcuffed by Garda Irwin.

Judge Kevin Kilrane said it went without saying that the driver was under arrest at that point whether this was lawful or unlawful.

Mr McGovern wondered why the driver was then arrested a second time after Garda Fearon formed his opinion that he had committed an offence of drunk driving.

"It was a double arrest. To be sure to be sure?" - Mr McGovern.

In reply to Judge Kilrane, Garda Fearon said he could not say if the handcuffs had been removed from the defendant on his return to the scene.

Garda Mark Irwin, in evidence, said he was on duty with Garda Kieran Higgins and were patrolling in the general area when they received a message of a male driver leaving the scene of an accident and the direction he was seen heading in.

Garda Irwin said that at Abbey Street he observed a man jumping wall and they drove into the nearby car park to investigate. The witness looked over the wall he had seen the man scaling and saw him hiding there. Garda Irwin said going by the description he believed the man was the same person who had left the scene of the accident.

The Garda said the man would not come back over the wall so he and Garda Higgins had to go over it and bring him across.

Curran told the Gardaí that he had panicked. Garda Irwin said he handcuffed Curran for his own safety before placing him into the rear of the patrol van which he had summoned and then bringing him back to Garda Fearon. Mr McGovern told the court that he hadn't received a copy of Garda Irwin's statement in advance of the case having received all the others.

Garda Irwin said he hadn't made a statement nor did he take any notes of the incident.

However, he stated that the matter did stand out for him even thought it was last April as it had stood out as something unusual.

It wasn't everyday he told Mr McGovern that someone was jumping over a wall and hiding.

Mr McGovern suggested that this would be a regular part of a Garda's work in his view.

At the conclusion of the prosecution case Mr McGovern sought a dismissal of the charge on the grounds that the defendant had been arrested twice.

Mr McGovern submitted that there was no doubt the defendant had been arrested by Garda Irwin as he had been handcuffed. The Garda says it was for his own safety but Mr McGovern said he didn't hear of any threats having been made.

"The defendant was then arrested a second time and that is not lawful. I don't know where that leaves us but it's illegal," said Mr McGovern.

In response to Judge Kilrane, Mr McGovern stated he was submitting the defendant was lawfully arrested at the time of being brought back to the scene of the accident.

Inspector Donal Sweeney stated that he was saying the defendant was not lawfully arrested, that he was not technically arrested by Garda Irwin.

Judge Kilrane said the defendant was effectively taken into custody in order to be conveyed back to Garda Fearon and the question was what was his status at that point.

"It's difficult to argue that he was not under arrest. He was in custody but not in lawful custody but the question then arises was he released from that custody on his return to the scene. It was stated he was out on the road. I need that clarified. Were the handcuffs still on?"- Judge.

He stated that he was holding the defendant was arrested by Garda Irwin but that this was not a lawful arrest. He was conveyed back to Garda Fearon and at that stage he was in unlawful custody and lawful custody could not be created out of that.

"It's a complicated issue," said Judge Kilrane. He adjourned the case to February 15th for legal submissions and a decision.

Inspector Sweeney submitted that Garda Irwin could not effect an arrest at all. He wouldn't have had any criteria for doing so. He was faced with a difficult situation.

Judge Kilrane said maybe the Garda should have got the defendant to stay with him and for Garda Fearon to go to him.

"I know it's difficult for Gardaí at that hour of the morning to deal with such technical difficulties but I have to at this stage," he said.

Sligo Champion