A man who appeared before last week’s sitting of Longford District Court charged under the Road Traffic Act was disqualified from driving for three years and fined €250 following a lengthy hearing into the matter.
Krzysztof Mazurek, Main Street, Ballymahon, Co Longford appeared before Judge Seamus Hughes charged with attempting to drive while under the influence of alcohol at Main Street, Ballymahon on June 11, 2017.
Outlining the evidence to the court, Garda Eoin Flynn said that on June 1, 2017 he was on patrol along the main street area of Ballymahon when he observed a black Audi A4 parked up with a male in the driver’s seat.
“I knocked on the window, got no response so I went around to the passenger door which was unlocked,” added Garda Flynn.
“The driver woke up and there was a strong smell of alcohol in the vehicle; the key was also in the ignition and I took it out.”
The court then heard that Garda Flynn made a lawful demand of the defendant for his insurance and driving licence.
“Mr Mazurek’s speech was slurred and his eyes were bloodshot,” the Garda continued.
“When he got out of the vehicle, he was unsteady on his feet and I formed the opinion at that stage that he was under the influence of an intoxicant.”
The court was told that at 1am the defendant was arrested on suspicion of being drunk in charge of a vehicle and subsequently conveyed to Longford Garda Station where an intoxyliser test later indicated a reading of 86 mg/alcohol per 100ml/breath.
Cross examining Garda Flynn, defence solicitor Trish Cronin said that in his direct evidence to the court, Garda Flynn had indicated that he had taken the key of the vehicle out of the ignition.
“Yet,” she added, “You did not record this fact in your notebook.”
“I accept that,” Garda Flynn said, before stressing once again that he took the key out of the ignition on the night.
Meanwhile, Ms Cronin put it to Garda Flynn that her client did not, in fact, have the key in the ignition in the first instance.
“When a person goes into custody, a record of what he has on him is recorded and my client’s key was in his pocket when he went into custody - this was recorded at the Garda Station,” the local solicitor continued.
“When I took the key out of the ignition I took custody of it; because it belonged to the defendant, it was included in his belongings at the Garda Station,” Garda Flynn then added.
Ms Cronin then told the court that her client was adamant that the key of the car was in his pocket and the car was parked right outside his house at Main Street, Ballymahon on the night in question.
She also stated that her client had been handcuffed when he was brought to the station and this was in breach of his rights.
“My client will say that he had been out in Ballymahon that night, came back to his house and couldn’t get in because the key was left in the lock in the inside, so he went into his car to sleep.”
Meanwhile, Garda Flynn said that while he could not speculate about whether or not the defendant was going to drive, he had passed the area only 10 minutes previously and the Audi A4 had not been parked up at that time.
When Judge Hughes asked the Garda if he was certain about that fact, Garda Flynn replied that he was.
Meanwhile, Ms Cronin moved to have the case dismissed on the grounds that her client had been handcuffed, but Judge Hughes said there was no basis for such action.
The defendant then provided evidence to the court.
In his direct evidence to Judge Hughes through a Polish interpreter, Mr Mazurek said that while he accepted that he was in his vehicle on the night, he had not driven it and had merely gone into it to sleep because he could not get into his house.
“I was in my vehicle that night because I could not enter the house,” he added.
“I was intoxicated, so I went into the car and fell asleep there.”
Mr Mazurek also explained to the court that he had been out in Ballymahon with family members that day and had been to a number of pubs during that time.
“My car was parked outside my house the whole day - I was just sleeping in it that night and had no intention of driving it,” he added.
During his deliberations on the matter, Judge Hughes said it was clear that there was a conflict of evidence in the case.
“There certainly is a conflict of evidence between Garda Flynn and the defendant,” the Judge added, before pointing to the fact that he had to make a decision in the case and was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the State had proved its case in the matter.
“The evidence is that this man went into his car to sleep, yet Garda Flynn states that he drove down main street, didn’t notice the car and 10 minutes later when he drove down the street again the car was there,” the Judge added.
“It is clear that Garda Flynn noticed a change in circumstance - 10 minutes later he found the defendant slumped in the car and formed the presumption that the man intended to drive his car.”
The Judge subsequently convicted the defendant and disqualified him from driving for three years.