A crane-driver accused of operating his machine in a dangerous manner during an alleged drunken prank was cleared yesterday after his employer, the developer Mr Mick Wallace, told a court he would tolerate a man using a crane with "one or two pints" of beer on him.
Mr Barry Owens (40), Forest, Athy, Co Kildare, denied trespass and endangering traffic during the incident in which the chains of a crane were swung at a dangerously low level above passing vehicles on Ormond Quay in Dublin on June 11th last.
Dublin District Court heard Mr Owens was employed to operate a crane on a Wallace Construction flats and offices site at nearby Strand Street.
Mr Owens and his helper, banksman Mr Fran Veale (21), Lindsay Road, Glasnevin, Dublin, had been drinking during the day when one of Ireland's World Cup fixtures was being played, the court was told. Around 8 p.m., they went back to the site and climbed aboard the crane. Shortly afterwards, gardaí received complaints from motorists that chains from a crane were being lowered up and down and being swung in a dangerous manner over the quays.
Garda Gillian Synnott had to close off one lane of traffic while Garda Mairghead Murphy and Garda Sean McLoughlin entered the building site. The officers spent some time shouting up to the pair who initially ignored them but eventually came down.
Garda Murphy said both were extremely drunk and made abusive remarks.
Garda Synnott said she was not even speaking to Mr Owens when he turned to her and was verbally abusive. Both men were arrested and last month Mr Veale, the banksman, pleaded guilty to trespass and the charge was dismissed under the Probation Act.
Yesterday, the men's employer, Mr Mick Wallace, told the court he had signed a statement for gardaí saying that employees have no right to be on site after hours. But in the witness box, he said it would be up to the security guard of the site to give permission for a person to go on site after hours.
Questioned by Judge David Anderson as to whether he would consider a drunken employee to be a trespasser, Mr Wallace said nobody should be drunk, but he did not know in this case how much Mr Owens had to drink.
Judge Anderson asked how much beer would a person need to have consumed before they would not be allowed on drive a crane. Mr Wallace replied: "That is difficult to say". Pressed by the judge as to whether it would be one pint or two, he said: "I would tolerate two pints but it depends on the individual, one pint may be two much for one person, we have all got different capacities in dealing with alcohol".
Judge Anderson said though Mr Owens's behaviour was reprehensible, the law required that he commit the offence while in a public place and he dismissed that charge. Dismissing the trespass charge, he said this was on the basis of what Mr Wallace had said.
"Mr Wallace's evidence is that he is quite happy to have crane drivers enter the site regardless of the amount of drink they consumed and, as a consequence, I must assume Mr Wallace gave a licence to carry on. Therefore I must dismiss that charge also".