A PUBLICAN who was caught drink driving in Foynes late last year has avoided a driving ban after claiming that he did not receive his fine in the post.
Gerry Kelly, proprietor of The Badger Kelly’s pub in Ballybunion and with a home address in Moylough, Ballinasloe, Galway, appeared in court in Newcastle West last Friday charged with drunk driving at Leahys, Foynes on December 29 last.
However the case was struck out after Mr Kelly gave evidence of not receiving his initial fixed charge penalty notice in the post.
Garda Philip Ellard told the court that at 10.50am on the date in question he stopped Mr Kelly driving on the main N69, and on speaking to him he “noticed a smell of intoxicating liquor from his breath”.
Mr Kelly subsequently failed a roadside breath test and was arrested on suspicion of drink driving.
Mr Kelly was taken to Newcastle West garda station, where at 11.48am he provided a breath specimen of 44 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.
Under recent changes to drink driving laws the reading was low enough to be dealt with through the administrative penalty system, which would see drivers avoid a court prosecution if they pay a fine of €400 and accept a six month driving ban.
Garda Ellard said that Mr Kelly’s details were taken and the defendant subsequently left the garda station without being charged.
Garda Ellard said that a fixed charge notice was caused to issue to Mr Kelly on January 11, 2012, but this was not paid and a court summons was subsequently issued.
Solicitor Joseph Fahy, defending, said that Mr Kelly’s situation was “a case of somebody who had a drink the night before”.
Mr Fahy said that on the morning in question Mr Kelly was travelling from Ballybunion to Galway to watch his son’s soccer match when he was pulled over.
Mr Fahy said “there was nothing in his driving that alerted garda attention”
Mr Kelly, giving evidence, admitted that he had drank “three or four pints” the night before. However, his defence was based on his claim that he did not receive the fixed charge notice in the post.
Mr Kelly said that while he gave his home address in Galway to the gardai, he lives “two thirds of the time” in Ballybunion and most of his post is sent to his Kerry address.
“I’d be better known in Kerry than in Galway. I’d spend maybe three months in the year there” he said, referring to Galway.
The court heard that the drink driving summons was sent to Mr Kelly’s Galway address and received by his wife.
Insp Seamus Ruane asked Mr Kelly why he gave gardai his address in Galway, when he admitted that most of his mail is sent to Ballybunion.
“That is the address of my [driving] licence... when I moved back from England”, he said. “I’m not saying it wasn’t [sent], I’m saying I didn’t receive it”, Mr Kelly said of the fixed charge notice.
Insp Ruane put it to Mr Kelly that he did receive the fixed charge notice, but simply decided not to pay it. “I put it to you that you did receive the notice, but didn’t pay it. I find you evidence strange”, Insp Ruane said.
Mr Kelly stringently denied that this was the case. “That’s incorrect. I’m sitting here under oath. I’m not lying to nobody”, Mr Kelly replied.
Judge Eugene O’Kelly struck the case out.