Limerick motorist who admitted 'smoking joint' has conviction overturned on appeal

David Hurley

Reporter:

David Hurley

The contest hearing took place at Limerick Circuit Court

The contest hearing took place at Limerick Circuit Court

A MOTORIST who admitted smoking “a joint” successfully appealed his conviction for drug driving.

During a contested hearing, Limerick Circuit Court was told Martin Hartnett, aged 29, of New Crescent Halting Site was stopped at Childers Road after he was observed by gardai attempting to hide his face shortly before 7pm on October 12, 2016.

Garda David O’Connell said he and a colleague were travelling in the direction of the Parkway Roundabout when they encountered a Volkswagen Passat being driven in the opposite direction.

He said he turned the patrol car and pursued Mr Hartnett for a short distance.

Garda O’Connell said the defendant attempted to “drive off at speed” when he saw the garda car and that he crossed over the centre line on the road.

When he spoke to the defendant, he detected a “potent smell”, noted the his speech was slurred and that his actions were slow.

Following his his arrest, Mr Hartnett was taken to Henry Street garda station where he provided a sample of blood to a doctor which confirmed the presence of canninabinoids.

Cross-examined by solicitor Tom Kiely, Garda O’Connell accepted there were “inconsistencies” between his direct evidence and his statement.

“You say one thing in court, you say something different in your statement,” he said.

Mr Kiely suggested his client had driven off at speed because he had “something in his car he should not have had” and that there were no issues with his driving prior to him seeing the patrol car.

“He was trying to get to the halting site as quickly as possible,” he suggested to which Garda O’Connell replied: “It’s possible”.

Mr Kiely noted that Garda Fergal Coffey had not noted any evidence of drug use when Mr Hartnett arrived at Henry Street station and that his client had fully understood and cooperated with all instructions following his arrest.

Upholding the appeal, Judge Tom O’Donnell said: “The evidence in its entirety is sufficient to raise a slight doubt.”