A student pleading not guilty to a drink driving charge at a special sitting of the District Court this week (March 29 ) failed to have it struck out after a judge accepted a garda was capable of searching the prisoner as well as maintaining the mandatory period of observation.
“It has long been established, Mr Carty, that a member of An Garda Siochána can walk and chew gum at the same time,” said Judge David Anderson to defending solicitor, Mr Owen Carty, before fining Brian Casey (20 ) of Mohill, Drumlish, Co Longford €1,250 and banning him from driving for 12 months.
The court had heard from Garda Mark T Lucas how he had been on patrol with colleague Garda Shane Kenna in the early hours of January 14 in the Dublin Road area when they observed a van coming out of Willow Park.
“It swerved a number of times on the approach to a roundabout and it nearly collided with the kerb before pulling into Glenown [student] apartments,” said Garda Lucas.
He told the court how he was able to form his opinion about the defendant’s ability to drive a motor propelled vehicle from this driving, and when Casey failed the roadside test he was arrested and taken to Athlone Garda Station where he recorded an intoxiliser reading of 43/100.
He admitted in cross examination by Mr Carty that he had only followed the van “for a few hundred metres” and that the apartments were in a cul-de-sac.
Mr Carty suggested this was private property and not a public place as required for a drink driving arrest.
“It belongs to the management company and there are signs saying this in the area,” said Mr Carty.
Garda Lucas couldn’t corroborate this but did say: “I would’ve pulled him for the manner of his driving anyway”.
Inspector Nicholas Farrell for the prosecution asked Garda Lucas to describe the entrance to Glenown apartments.
“There are no barriers. You can drive straight in,” testified Garda Lucas.
His colleague, Garda Shane Kenna then took the stand and told the court how Casey’s vehicle “crossed over the white lines a number of times”.
Mr Carty asked Garda Kenna if Casey had been searched on arrival at the garda station and whether this was before or after the mandatory 20 minutes nil-by-mouth period of observation had started. This 20 minutes is a mandatory requirement before giving the two intoxiliser breaths, to eliminate any possibility of contamination.
“I don’t have the custody record to see which member searched the prisoner but he would’ve still been under my observation. I observed him at all times,” said Garda Kenna.
Mr Carty then told the court his client had not been informed the period of observation had begun “until five minutes after it started”, however Judge Anderson was not to be swayed in his belief that a garda could search a prisoner whilst managing to make sure he didn’t eat or drink anything at the same time.
His only concession to Mr Carty was deferring the start of the ban until July 1 to allow Casey his vehicle for his final year exams.