THE truth about drink driving prosecutions is a world away from what was initially reported last month, Newcastle West solicitor Rossa McMahon has declared.
And he argued that figures, which were released by the Department of Justice to Dublin-based TD Finbar Brougham, were “wildly misinterpreted” in the media.
The real level of conviction, he believes, is much closer to that confirmed by the Courts Service which said its statistics showed conviction rates of between 85% and 88% for drink driving.
This figure is a bit lower than the conviction rate for all crime but not by much, Mr McMahon said.
But Mr McMahon pointed out the clarified figures were not reported in the same way as the original, incorrect figures which he felt was dangerous.
“Incorrect reporting of the statistics has led to a public perception that it is easy to escape a conviction for drink driving,” he said. And, he stressed, this was not the case.
Last month, when the figures were first made public, other solicitors practising in Limerick also expressed surprise and astonishment that the figures showed that Limerick was one of the worst areas in the country for securing convictions for drink driving.
The figures claimed that only one in three people or 36% of those charged with drink driving in Limerick was convicted and only one in every four in Newcastle West.
“These figures bear no relation to reality,” said Charlie O’Connor, who regularly defends drink driving cases in Newcastle West and Kilmallock.
“I don’t know where these figures came from,” he continued. But he suggested that perhaps the figures were being skewed by including adjourned cases in along with finalised cases.
Mr McMahon argued that a direct answer to Deputy Brougham’s was “always going to be misleading” because a significant proportion of cases not finalised in that time period would later have resulted in convictions, pushing the conviction rate up.
He expressed a certain surprise that the Road Safety Authority did not see the error in the figures but instead “joined the chorus of disappointment at what transpired to be totally incorrect conviction rates.”