Longford man who told gardai 'it wasn't me' driving crashed car is cleared

Liam Cosgrove

Reporter:

Liam Cosgrove

Email:

liam.cosgrove@longfordleader.ie

Longford Courthouse.

A man who told gardaí 'it wasn't me' who was driving a car after it crashed into an ESB pole in Co Longford last year has escaped being convicted of drink driving

A Longford man charged with drink driving after gardaí found him at the scene of a single vehicle crash in Kenagh on Christmas Day last year has escaped conviction.

Anthony McCormack, 2 Woodland Path, Kenagh, Co Longford shouted to gardaí “it wasn’t me” when officers found his Audi A4 damaged after it had crashed into an ESB pole.

Garda Kevin Corcoran said he and a colleague had been on patrol when they received a report of a single vehicle incident in Kenagh village shortly after 3:30am.

He said when they arrived ten minutes later they found the car with “extensive damage” to its front.
Garda Corcoran said he found the defendant staggering and with a strong smell of alcohol coming from his breath at the scene.

He said when he approached Mr McCormack to ask him who was driving the car, the 26-year-old was unable to tell him who was actually at the wheel.

Given that he was the registered owner, a lawful demand was made under Section 107 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 for Mr McCormack to inform Garda Corcoran of who had been driving.

Garda Corcoran said the accused was unable to shed any light on the issue. He said following that, he made a number of observations, one of which was the appearance of a number cuts and grazes Mr McCormack had on his arms with his trousers also being ripped.

On foot of that and with no one else at the scene, Garda Corcoran said he formed the opinion the Kenagh man was the driver of the car and was “incapable of having proper control” of the vehicle as a consequence of being under the influence of an intoxicant.

He said he formally arrested Mr McCormack at 3:50am on suspicion of drink driving under Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 2010.

His colleague, Garda Eoin Flynn carried out a roadside breath test moments later, he added, which resulted showed Mr McCormack had exceeded the mandatory limit in which to drive.

Garda Corcoran said he also asked Mr McCormack if he required any medical assistance for his cuts, a request the accused turned down.

He told the court the car in question was subsequently seized under Section 41 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 with both gardaí and Mr McCormack having to wait at the scene until a lorry arrived to tow it away.

The patrol car arrived at Longford Garda Station at 5am, he said, with member in charge Garda Keith O’Brien being presented with details surrounding Mr McCormack’s arrest.

Less than a quarter of an hour later, Garda Flynn, a trained officer of the force’s evidenzer machine started the required 15 minute observation of Mr McCormack to ensure no food or drink was consumed.

The ensuing result returned a reading of 80mg per 100ml of breath, prompting Garda Corcoran to formally charge Mr McCormack at 6:25am.

He said after caution: “I don’t know.”

As he continued to sit in the witness box and address the court, Garda Corcoran said upon his return to work after Christmas he decided to carry out further enquiries into the crash.

During those investigations, he told of how he managed to obtain CCTV footage from a nearby shop which showed the crash occurring.

Upon closer inspection, he said he could positively identify the figure exiting the vehicle and walking close to the camera as Anthony McCormack.

In defence, solicitor John Quinn suggested to Garda Corcoran his client was shocked by an injury to his hand.

“He (Mr McCormack) appeared confused more so due to the level of alcohol taken in my opinion,” he replied, reaffirming the point that he could clearly see Mr McCormack as the sole occupant of the car who had exited from the front passenger’s side.

“From his clothing and description I could tell from the CCTV footage it was him that exited the car.”
Garda Flynn said he too could hear Mr McCormack state how “it wasn’t him” who had been driving when he and Garda McCormack arrived at the scene.

He also noted that Mr McCormack was “very unsteady” on his feet and that his speech was “slurred”.

Taking to his feet once more, Mr Quinn said he would be forced into taking a “certain course” with his client over the Section 107 charge of failing to provide Garda Corcoran with information as to who was driving the vehicle.

His tone, however, became more defensive when turning his attention to the Section 4 drink driving charge and accompanying Section 53 dangerous driving charge.

He said the CCTV footage obtained by Garda Corcoran was not reliable as it was private as opposed to public.

“It’s a private shopkeeper’s CCTV and I would question its veracity,” he said.

In a further submission, Mr Quinn also questioned an 11 minute time delay which had shown up on the CCTV recording.

“There appears to be an 11 minute error but who is saying that and how is that determined?” Mr Quinn asked.

“And there is no evidence of when the accident occurred because all we know is that a report was made to the station.

“All we have is private CCTV which is secondary evidence and inaccurate evidence.”

Following a brief period of deliberation over her own notes taken from the evidence provided, Judge Erin McKiernan said she was not “entirely satisfied beyond reasonable doubt” the defendant was driving the vehicle and consequently dismissed both Section 4 and Section 53 charges against Mr McCormack.

She did, however disqualify him for a period of three months for the Section 107 charge and fined him €300.