Limerick drink-driving cases in jeopardy following High Court ruling

David Hurley

Reporter:

David Hurley

Sergeant Donal Cronin said the State is 'considering its position' in the wake of the judgement
A NUMBER of prosecutions for drink-driving offences have been adjourned until next month to allow the State to clarify matters following a recent High Court decision.

A NUMBER of prosecutions for drink-driving offences have been adjourned until next month to allow the State to clarify matters following a recent High Court decision.

In a ruling, which was handed down last week, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan found there was “no ambiguity” in law and that suspected drink drivers, who supply a sample of their breath at a garda station, are entitled to printouts from the Evidenzer IRL machines in both Irish and English.

The judge ruled that once a (breath) specimen has been taken, the person must be supplied immediately by a member of an Garda Síochána with two identical statements - one in English and one in Irish.

His decision was made in the case of a Romanian national who challenged his conviction for drink-driving on the basis that he was not given a printout in Irish 
after he supplied a sample of his breath, which showed he was more than twice the legal limit.

“In my view, what arises in this case, being a failure to reproduce an entire half of the prescribed form, could not be regarded as ‘mere deviation’ from the form prescribed,” said Mr Justice Noonan.

While Transport Minister Paschal Donohue has since closed the loophole with emergency legislation, the future of dozens of prosecutions currently before the courts in Limerick remain uncertain.

While no drink-driving prosecutions have been withdrawn locally to date, several have been adjourned in the wake of the ruling.

In one case, Sergeant Donal Cronin told Limerick District Court it is a “fluid situation” and that the State is “considering its position” following the judgement.

He requested an adjournment of several cases to allow the State to examine and review Mr Justice Noonan’s judgement in detail.

The two judges assigned to the Limerick district - Judge Marian O’Leary and Judge Mary Larkin - have also indicated that they will need time to consider the judgement, which has been circulated to members of the judiciary.

Sergeant Cronin acknowledged that a number of cases could be in difficulty arising from the decision but that he had not received any specific instructions.

He said pending cases, which could be affected, will be reviewed in the short term to assess their viability and he added that it is open to the State to appeal the decision of Mr Justice Noonan to the Court of Appeal.

“Occasionally, the State can appeal,” he commented during one case, which was among those adjourned.