Stress disorder saves sufferer’s blushes

A man who failed to give a breath specimen to gardaí had the case against him dismissed when it emerged that he told officers that he had obsessive compulsive disorder.

Robbie Burns was stopped by Garda Gerry Keaney on the N4 on June 14 this year at Newdown, Mullingar following a report of a man driving erratically.

The garda said he had been driving slowly in the hard shoulder and when he spoke to Mr Burns of 19 Glenview Drive, Tallaght his speech was slurred and he was unsteady on his feet.

At Mullingar Garda Station he was unable to provide complete breath specimens, despite being warned that failure to do so could result in a four year driving ban. When charged with that offence, he replied “I’m sorry”.

Garda Keaney agreed that Mr Burns had tried to blow into the machine but that his breath had failed to register. The 35-year-old had offered no reason why this would be the case.

Garda Alan Clerkin told the court that while giving his details Mr Burns had told him he took medication and had obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD ).

Dr Gerry Daly from Tallaght explained that Mr Burns had been his patient since 2000 and had been complaining of the “debilitating” anxiety-related condition since 2008. He couldn’t leave his house without checking that everything was all right five or six times.

Mr Burns had contacted him after the incident at the Garda station and said he had become very anxious and was physically unable to blow into the machine.

The doctor then performed a standard test with Mr Burns which showed that his lung capacity was less than 50 per cent of what would be expected of a man of his age and as such was consistent with someone suffering from emphysema.

He said he would expect Mr Burns’ lung capacity to be worse under stress “because he gets agitated” and he “wouldn’t be able to communicate his problems properly to gardaí”.

He added that Mr Burns “tends to have a mild slur to his speech pattern under normal conditions”, a condition which would definitely get worse under stress.

Mr Burns told the court that he had tried his best to give the sample but “felt anxiety coming over me”.

Inspector Kieran Keyes pointed out that Mr Burns had not told gardaí why he could not provide the sample and that if he had done so, another option may have been available to him.

Saying that Mr Burns was entitled to the benefit of the doubt, he dismissed the case. He had done the best he could and had explained he suffered from OCD. He had not been obstructive.


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