Technicality can’t save woman who forced squad car to swerve

A woman whose drunken driving caused a Garda patrol car to swerve, failed in an attempt to overturn her ban in the Circuit Court this week (December 8 ).

In court was former Athlone Institute of Technology student, Carmel Treanor (22 ), of Derrydonnell North, Oranmore, Co Galway, who had been arrested on February 7 with twice the legal limit of alcohol in her system.

The court heard from a Garda Aisling Brady who had been on patrol in the squad car on the evening in question approaching Valley Court on the Dublin Road when she saw the defendant’s car “being driven at speed and failing to stop when it pulled out in front of the marked patrol car”.

“I had to swerve in order to avoid a collision but she continued driving,” said Gda Brady.

Treanor was followed to Cartrontroy Heights where, with the aid of lights and sirens, she was arrested, and brought to Athlone Garda Station where she produced an alcohol breath level of 70mg/100ml.

However, it was a perceived anomaly during this intoxilising process upon which Treanor’s barrister, Mr Alan Ledwith, hung his appeal.

The court heard from intoxilising garda Suzanne Nolan that Treanor’s mandatory 20 minutes nil-by-mouth period of observation before being breathalysed, was interrupted after 15 minutes after the defendant asked to be brought to the bathroom urgently.

Gda Nolan gave evidence the second period of observation began at 11.25pm but the Section 17 certificate - the legal receipt giving the official reading from the intoxilyser - quoted a start time of 11.43pm, 18 minutes after the second period of observation began.

Garda Nolan acccepted this saying this was when the machine was switched on, but that it was a further two minutes before Treanor had her first breath, after the machine purged itself from its previous use and adjusted to the relative humidity and ambient temperature of the room.

Mr Ledwith quoted the Act saying the statutory requirement for a period of nil-by-mouth was 20 minutes “before the start of the test not before the first breath”, thus ruling the Section 17 certificate inadmissable.

“There’s got to be common sense on all occasions,” said Mr Peter D Jones for the State.

“They could’ve said no when she asked to go to the toilet, and told her ‘you have to stay there until we’ve finished our observation’ but they didn’t say that.”

Mr Ledwith tried to argue the difference between best practice and operating procedure, but Judge Anthony Kennedy refused his appeal.

“I see no point,” he said, before upholding the District Court’s three year ban.

Accepting that Treanor had recently graduated with a sports management degree and was actively looking for employment around the country, he acccepted her application for a postponement of the start of her ban until May 1 and also reduced her fine from €750 to €75.

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