Fine Gael councillor successfully appeals drink driving conviction
Judge says he has a doubt about defendant’s detention before giving breath sample
Gardaí had been operating a checkpoint in Ballymacoda on the night in question and they noticed a car approaching the checkpoint and stopping a short distance away at a junction before turning to the left, prompting gardaí to give chase, the court heard. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times
A Fine Gael councillor and former leader of a policing committee on Cork County Council who panicked and fled from gardaí operating a checkpoint, has won an appeal against his conviction for drink driving.
Long-serving councillor Michael Hegarty (52), from Moanroe, Ladysbridge, Cork had been convicted last March at Youghal District Court of drink driving at Ballymacoda, Cork just after midnight on August 21st 2012.
Judge Terence Finn convicted Mr Hegarty, an auctioneer, of the offence and imposed a €600 fine and disqualified him from driving for two years when he heard the case at Youghal District Court on March 15th.
But yesterday Mr Hegarty successfully appealed the conviction to Youghal Circuit Court with his barrister, Dermot Sheehan BL raising concerns about Mr Hegarty being wrongfully deprived of his liberty when he was asked to provide a breath sample which later led to his arrest.
Gardaí had been operating a checkpoint in Ballymacoda on the night in question and they noticed a car approaching the checkpoint and stopping a short distance away at a junction before turning to the left, prompting gardaí to give chase, the court heard.
The car turned into the car park of a church and the driver, Mr Hegarty got out and ran from gardaí but Garda Cillian Barry gave chase and saw the man jump over a wall of the church yard and run to a derelict area where he found him hiding in bushes.
Garda Barry said he detected a smell of alcohol from Mr Hegarty and noticed his speech was slurred and he brought him back to the garda car where he asked him to provide a sample of his breath.
Mr Hegarty blew into the breathalyser and failed, leading him to arrest Mr Hegarty.
However Mr Sheehan argued Mr Hegarty had been wrongfully deprived of his liberty when he was placed in the garda car as he had not been informed he was free to leave at any time and thus, the breath sample had not been properly obtained and the conviction should be set aside.
Judge Patrick Moran said he had a doubt about Mr Hegarty’s detention whengiving the sample and in the circumstances where he had a doubt, he had to give the benefit of it to the defendant and he allowed Mr Hegarty’s appeal and set aside the conviction.