Drink driving case dismissed due to lack of evidence of driving time

Car crashes into traffic lights resulting in debris covered road, court hears

An Oranmore man accused of drink driving and crashing into a traffic lights and island, an incident which resulted in one lane of a busy city road being blocked off due to debris, succeeded in having the case dismissed on the grounds that there was no evidence to prove at what time he was driving.

Joseph Corballis (23 ) with an address at 3 Renville Village, Oranmore, denied the charge of drink driving at Dublin Road on February 28, 2010. A charge for careless driving was withdrawn by the State.

Giving evidence at the hearing at Galway District Court on Monday Garda Karen Battye said a call of a single vehicle collision was received at 5.35am, a car was then found at the scene in the middle of the Dublin road/Coast road junction, and there was debris from the car and the traffic lights lying all over the road. Garda Battye said when she spoke to Corballis she got a strong smell of an intoxicant and his speech was slurred. She then cautioned him that she was arresting him on suspicion of drink driving.

The court heard that after caution Corballis had said: “I was approaching the junction to turn right for Oranmore when I collided with the traffic lights and island. I had four pints.” The defendant was arrested at 5.45am, brought to Galway Garda Station, and while his details were being entered into the custody record he said: “I was driving, going too fast, I tried to slow down but couldn’t slow down enough.” The court also heard that Corballis told gardai: “I know I was going over the speed limit from Galway to Oranmore. I was doing over 170kmph... I was drinking Heineken.” The defendant then gave an intoxiliser reading of 73mgs/100mls of breath which is twice over the limit and was charged.

Garda James Griffiths gave evidence that the car had collided with the centre island post and that there was “lots of debris”, resulting in the left hand lane being completely blocked and the road being unsafe for other motorists. Garda Griffiths said at the station Corballis had told him he had left the pub after 2am and did not remember what he was doing between that time and 5.30am.

Defence counsel Con Crowley first put it to Garda Battye that there was no reference to Corballis having stated that he was driving over 170kmph in her statement. In response to Garda Griffiths’ direct evidence, Mr Crowley said that there was no reference in his statement regarding how Corballis spent the hours between 2am and 5.30am.

Addressing Judge McCarthy Mr Crowley said there was also no evidence before the court that his client had been driving three hours prior to when the level of alcohol was measured. “All there is is that the car was found at the scene. There is no evidence regarding the time of his driving,” said Mr Crowley, who then made an application for the charge to be dismissed due to the lack of evidence.

In response Inspector Brendan Carroll reminded the court the call of the accident was received at 5.35am and that the evidence given by both Garda Battye and Griffiths was of an incident which had happened not long before their arrival.

However Mr Crowley replied that the State is obliged to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Judge McCarthy acceeded to the application regarding the time of driving and dismissed the charge.

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