Convicted drink drivers seek to use new ruling to appeal

High Court ruled that results to alcohol breath test should be in Irish and English

A recent High Court ruling, which found part of the law used to prosecute drink drivers, has led to appeals from motorists already convicted of the offence

A recent High Court ruling, which found part of the law used to prosecute drink drivers, has led to appeals from motorists already convicted of the offence

 

The implications of a High Court ruling which found a problem with legislation used to prosecute drink drivers may widen after appeal applications by convicted motorists were lodged in district courts.

On Monday, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan ruled that when gardaí performed an alcohol breath test in a Garda station, the law required they provide a statement of results in Irish and English.

The following day the Department of Transport signed emergency legislation stating such results could be provided in English or Irish, but this law will have no impact on hundreds of drink driving cases currently before the courts.

On Friday two applications were submitted by motorists convicted of drink driving, seeking to extend the period within which they could appeal.

If they succeed, it means existing convictions may also be undermined by the High Court ruling.

In Castlerea District Court in Co Roscommon, judge Geoffrey Browne granted an application by a convicted drink driver, John Higgins, Ballybeg, Tulsk, for an extension of time to lodge an appeal.

Legal sources predicted the successful application might prompt a series of similar applications by recently convicted drink drivers.

Solicitor John O’Dwyer, representing Higgins, told the judge his application was “unusual” and “would not have arisen but for the decision of the High Court”.

Higgins was disqualified from driving at Strokestown District Court on January 28th last. He was convicted of drink driving, fined €250, and disqualified for a minimum period of two years.

Mr O’Dwyer told the judge the evidence submitted to the court of the breath analysis of the Evidenzer device came in the form of statement, pursuant to Section 13 of the Road Traffic Act, 2010.

No application for recognisance was fixed at the end of Higgins’s trial.

Following his successful application, Mr O’Dwyer said it was his instruction to lodge an appeal with the Circuit Court.

The basis of the appeal is that at the time of the taking of the sample on September 22nd, 2014, it is now known that the law was incorrect and has subsequently been struck down.

Mr O’Dwyer said the introduction of a new statutory instrument, as signed into law by the Minister for Transport, had prospective effect only and did not remedy the problem in Higgins’s case.

He said it was also his instruction from Higgins to pursue the State for damages where they knew through the offices of An Garda Síochána that the consultative case stated had first been mooted and where there was a vulnerability on the part of the State in relation to the particular statutory provision of Section 13 of the Road Traffic Act 2010.

A similar argument for an extension of time to lodge and appeal and for recognisance to be fixed was made in the case of Ryan Connolly, Summerhill, Ballyglass, Claremorris, Co Mayo, at a sitting on Friday of Castlebar District Court.

Connolly was convicted of drink driving in April last year, was fined €350 and disqualified for driving for two years.

The application was adjourned to October 7th by judge Mary Devins.