A man has won High Court orders stopping his prosecution for allegedly driving while under the influence of cannabis.
The prosecution was halted on grounds its continuation would breach Glenn Ryan’s right to fair procedures.
In a recently published judgement, Ms Justice Miriam O’Regan said it was “significant” that the prosecuting team made representations in the District Court that the wrong charge had been used in the summons against Mr Ryan, of Shancastle Close, Clondalkin, Dublin 22. He was arrested on May 17th, 2018 in relation to the manner of his driving.
An analysis of his blood sample indicated a concentration of cannabis over the prescribed limit, the judge said. Consequently, the arresting Garda applied for a summons alleging that Mr Ryan was driving or attempting to drive while under the influence of an intoxicant, contrary to the Road Traffic Act 2010.
Mr Ryan’s lawyer wrote to the chief prosecution solicitor in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) complaining that the summons cited an offence contrary to section 4(1) of the Act, as opposed to a lesser charge of contravening section 4(1A). The lower offence carries a mandatory driving disqualification for one year, compared to four years for the more serious.
Abuse of process
Mr Ryan’s solicitor asserted that continuing with the prosecution as presented would amount to an abuse of process.
At a District Court hearing some six months later, the Garda, through the State solicitor, sought an amendment to the summons. Upon inquiry, the District Court judge was advised that the garda had put down the wrong charge.
Mr Ryan objected to the amendment. After the judge refused the application, the prosecuting Garda indicated that the original prosecution would proceed.
In follow up correspondence with the chief prosecution solicitor, Mr Ryan’s solicitor sought the withdrawal of the summons. The solicitor was informed the amendment application was made in error and there was sufficient evidence to mount a prosecution under the more serious section 4(1).
In submissions to the High Court, the DPP argued an erroneous view expressed by the prosecuting garda did not alter the legal landscape.
In her judgment, Ms Justice O’Regan said it appeared to be “significant” that the District Court heard that the wrong charge had been used.
She concluded there is “actual prejudice” to Mr Ryan because, as far as the prosecuting Garda is concerned, the charge is incorrect. It was “appropriate” to grant the order of prohibition sought, she ruled.