Positive cannabis test not enough, says judge


THE ROAD Safety Medical Bureau was criticised yesterday by a judge for failing to test for the level of drug intoxication in a driver arrested by gardaí.

Ballyshannon District Court, Co Donegal, was told that a breath-test for alcohol on a young driver, Peter Gillen, proved negative.

But Garda Seán Flynn still had suspicions about the reason for Mr Gillen’s unusual driving at 4.10am when he turned at speed into a housing estate without using his indicator. Mr Gillen, who was “very shocked, unsteady and very agitated”, was arrested on suspicion of drug-driving and later gave a urine sample.

Judge Kevin Kilrane said that while a certificate from the bureau showed there was cannabis in Mr Gillen’s system, the positive result could have been caused by a tiny trace of drugs. The judge said that when he recently practised as a solicitor he queried the bureau about such tests which did not reveal the concentration of drugs.

He said: “The defendant could have been stoned out of his mind or he might have had a trace element only.”

Judge Kilrane said the evidence was “too thin” to convict on a charge that carried a “huge penalty” of an automatic four-year drive ban. There was no way of knowing if the cannabis traces found in Mr Gillen’s system were recent, or had been there some days, the judge said.

The judge added: “At best, all you have is suspicion and suspicion is not enough.” He dismissed the charge against Gillen of drug-driving near his home at Ballyshannon, on December 12th last year. The judge said: “It is not the fault of the gardaí. It is the fault of the bureau that does not give a concentration of drugs.”