A JUDGE has rejected an application to dismiss a drink driving charge against a Tipperary man on the basis the footpath on which he was driving while over the limit had not been proven to be a public place.
“Are you saying that people can avoid the drink driving legislation by illegally driving around on footpaths?” Judge Eugene O’Kelly asked Martin Dully BL, after the barrister sought direction on the point of law.
Frank Ryan, 45, of Church View, Annacarthy, denied driving while intoxicated in a public place in Cappamore village in the early hours of August 1 2011.
Limerick District Court heard that Mr Ryan had moved the car along a footpath towards the door of a pub where a friend of his had taken ill.
Garda Eddie Ryan was on duty in Cappamore at around 1.30am and said the street was busy as there was a festival in the village. Garda Ryan said he had observed a number of people coming and going from a car parked on the side of the street. It had then taken off and Garda Brian O’Dwyer, who was driving the patrol car, said he had driven alongside to prevent this car from coming out on to the road. It had come to a stop at a pole on the footpath.
Garda Ryan said he had then spoken to the driver, Frank Ryan, who Garda Ryan observed as having bloodshot eyes; slow, deliberate speech; and being unsteady on his feet. Garda Ryan said he formed the opinion that Mr Ryan had been driving while intoxicated. He was arrested and taken to Henry Street garda station where a sample of breath read 80mg of alcohol for 100ml of breath.
Mr Dully said part of the footpath along which his client had been driving was associated with a private Centra car park. He argued that neither Garda Ryan nor Garda O’Dwyer had established it was a public place under the act.
“The public road includes a public footpath and the court has heard no evidence it was a public footpath. We heard it described as a footpath but only later designated as a public place by the gardai,” Mr Dully said.
Judge O’Kelly said he was satisfied Garda Ryan and Garda O’Dwyer had established it was a public place.
“Both gardai indicated that two wheels of the car were on the public road and the other two on the footpath. Whether or not there is any merit – and I don’t believe there is – that this footpath was not a public place, it is in any event moot when gardai observe two wheels on the roadway,” the judge said.
The court accepted that Mr Ryan was “acting in the capacity of a Good Samaritan but he was extremely foolish to offer assistance to a friend while over the limit”. Mr Ryan, a stonemason and father-of-two, was fined €1,000 and disqualified from driving for three years.