A pensioner, followed home from the pub by gardai after visiting his wife in a nursing home, avoided a conviction in the District Court this week (March 29 ) for drink driving after the judge ruled there was “sufficient conflict” of evidence.
Jim Farrell (69 ), of Market Hill, Ballymore was arrested outside his home on May 31, 2009, and when brought to Athlone Garda Station returned a reading of 36/100. The limit in Ireland is 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.
Garda Keith Harrison gave evidence that whilst on duty that night with Sergeant Dermot Monaghan he observed Farrell’s car leave Rooney’s pub in the village and he followed him “for a little more than a kilometre” towards Mullingar to the Market Hill estate.
“Judge, the car was weaving on the road and was crossing the white line,” said Garda Harrison, who then used his blue lights to bring the defendant to a stop. He told the court on account of the alcohol on Farrell’s breath and his glazed eyes, he formed his opinion as to the defendant’s inability to be in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle and arrested him at 9.03pm in a public place outside the defendant’s address.
Farrell contested this saying no blue lights were used and his first encounter with Garda Harrison was not in his car as the garda said but “on his own doorstep”, according to defending solicitor, Ms Michelle Dolan.
She went on to tell the court her client was “an elderly man after visiting his wife in a nursing home” and pointed out that “Sergeant Monaghan is not in court nor did he submit a statement to defence”.
From the stand, Farrell claimed he only had “two drinks in Rooneys and went down the village 500 yards, maybe less”.
“The Guards came in behind me. There were no lights flashing at all,” he said.
“Garda Harrison must’ve something against me if he says he talked to me in the car.”
“My client’s evidence is clearly at odds with Garda Harrison’s and it’s unlawful to form an opinion on private property,” said Ms Dolan.
Judge David Anderson was not convinced of Ms Dolan’s assertion that Garda Harrison formed his opinion as to Farrell’s state of sobriety on his doorstep but believed that without Sgt Monaghan’s corroborating evidence: “There is sufficient conflict and with that doubt I dismiss [the charge]”.