Limerick woman guilty of drink driving in 'most marginal of situations'

Norma Prendiville


Norma Prendiville


Judge Marion O’Leary said the State had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt

Judge Marion O’Leary said the State had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt

A JUDGE expressed sympathy for the predicament facing a woman who was before her accused of drink driving.

“I feel so sorry for her. If I had any doubt, I would certainly go with you but I don’t,” Judge Marian O’Leary told solicitor Padraig O’Connell at Newcastle West Court who was pleading for leniency for his client. Shauna McGinnis, 6 Arra View, Newcastle West.

Ms McGinnis was charged with driving with excess alcohol at North Quay, Newcastle West last July 16.

The defendant in her evidence said she and her partner had been in a local pub, had a row and she had stormed off followed by her partner.

They had sat into her car on North Quay to calm down and have a cigarette, she told the court and she had to use the car lighter.

“I had just lit the cigarette when the sergeant arrived,” she said.

But she said she did not believe she had driven the car nor was it her intention to drive the car.

Sergeant Tony Miniter was on foot patrol at North Quay on the date in question and saw a man and woman walking on the opposite side of the road.

“They were obviously together and the female seemed to be upset,” he said.

He saw them get into a parked car and had a suspicion that they might drive off. He heard the engine of the vehicle start and could see the front wheel of the vehicle turn in an outwards position “as if turning out of the car parking space”.

He then tapped on the window and spoke to the woman in the driver’s seat, Shauna McGinnis. He subsequently arrested her on suspicion of drink driving and a sample of break taken at Newcastle West garda station gave a reading of 71mg of alcohol per 100mg of break.

Cross examined by Mr O’Connell, Sgt Miniter said he did not question the defendant about her intention to drive but didn’t recall if she was smoking or not. He saw only the front right wheel move, he acknowledged.

Mr O’Connell put it to him that there may have been involuntary movement, once his client turned on the engine to light the cigarette. But Sgt Minister said the vehicle front wheels changed to outwards and the vehicle moved “very slightly forwards until I stood in front of it”.

Mr O’Connell submitted that Sgt Miniter, in forming the opinion the accused was incapable of handling an mpv, was obliged to tell her it was due to consumption of an intoxicant and had not done so. He was also obliged to give the accused the reason why it was nil by mouth during the 20 minute observation period at the garda station. 

But Judge Marian O’Leary did not hold with the submissions and said Ms McGinnis had a case to answer.

Pleading for his client, Mr O’Connell said it was “the most marginal of situations” and came down to intent. It was down to the discretion of the judge as to whether she accepted Ms McGinnis intended to drive or not.

“I believe she told the truth to this court,” he said. “If there is no intention, you are entitled to dismiss the case.”

But Judge O’Leary said the State had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt and she convicted Ms McGinnis, fining her €200 and disqualifying her from driving for three years.

She allowed recognizance with leave to appeal.