Two-job student praised despite attempt to quash DD charge
By Finian Coghlan
A man failed in his attempt to beat a drink driving conviction after the judge ruled the omission of temperature and humidity details from the intoxiliser room in the arresting garda’s statement did not compromise his conviction.
However, in a divergence from convention after a not guilty plea is convicted, Judge Seamus Hughes did not increase the punishment, but called the defendant “a good lad” for holding down two jobs, and postponed the start of the ban until the end of the summer to allow him keep both.
James Donnellan (20), Curraghmore, Kiltoom, Co Roscommon, was in court this week (July 4), to plead not guilty to the charge after being apprehended in the early hours of March 8, and returning a breath sample of 56 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.
The legal limit in Ireland for a non-professional driver with a full licence is 35/100.
Defending solicitor, Mr Padraig Quinn, told the court he had “no issue” with arresting officer Garda Bridget Byrne’s evidence up to the point at which she brought Donnellan to the doctor’s room in the Garda station.
Garda Byrne, who described the defendant as “co-operative and well-mannered”, gave detailed evidence to the judge about the procedure followed, and instructions given to Donnellan, during his time in the intoxiliser room.
As soon as Garda Byrne had finished her evidence, Mr Quinn pointed out that she made no reference to the guidelines concerning the temperature and humidity of the room, and applied to dismiss the charge on these grounds.
“I noticed that also, Mr Quinn, but that’s just it. They’re only guidelines. I feel there is far too much superfluous evidence given in cases like this,” said Judge Hughes.
He then referred to a recent High Court appeal on these very grounds that was refused because temperature and humidity “are not needed”.
“Anyhow, I believe that if either [parameter] falls above or below a certain level, the machine refuses to work,” said the judge.
“Garda Byrne did say in her evidence that prior to the test ‘all was in working order’,” said Inspector Aidan Minnock.
Judge Hughes also pointed out that the intoxiliser machine “can also work outside the levels”, and confirmed that Garda Byrne “is a very experienced operator”.
Garda Byrne then told the court that Athlone Garda Station possessed the latest model intoxiliser and that these parameters would not need to be given in evidence in the future.
In mitigation, Mr Quinn told how his client had just finished the third year of an engineering degree in the AIT and was holding down two summer jobs.
“Fair dues to you. You’re a good lad,” said Judge Hughes to Donnellan, before fining him €250, and disqualifying him for two years.
To allow him keep his two summer jobs, the judge postponed the start of the ban until September 1.