Longford Circuit Court: Drink driving conviction upheld in circuit court

Man drove dangerously from Killydoon to Granard

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A man who appeared at a recent sitting of Longford Circuit Court appealing the decision of the district court in relation to a drink driving conviction earlier this year had the ruling upheld following a hearing into the matter.

Carban Waclaw, App 4, Granada Retail Park, Granard, Co Longford appeared before Judge Keenan Johnson convicted of drink driving at Rathcronin, Granard on March 20, 2016.

The court heard that the case centered around a drink driving charge in which the defendant was observed by two paramedics driving an ambulance, driving in a “dangerous manner” from Killydoon to Granard earlier this year.

In his direct evidence to the court, Andy Weir, HSE Longford said that on the date in question at approximately 8:15pm he was driving an ambulance towards Granard at Killydoon when he observed a car in front of him that was “veering in and out of the road”.

Mr Weir told Judge Johnson that he immediately contacted gardaí about the matter and when they arrived in Granard he spoke to the defendant.

“He was unsteady on his feet and appeared to be intoxicated,” he added.

Meanwhile, Garda Frank Fallon told the court that he was on duty in Edgeworthstown when he got the call to go to Granard on the date of the incident,

“When I arrived, I observed the vehicle parked in the car park at an apartment block; there was also an ambulance with two paramedics close by,” he continued, before pointing to the fact that the paramedics filled him in on what they observed on the journey from Killydoon to Granard.

“I spoke to the defendant and there was a strong smell of intoxicating liquor coming from his breath; he was also unsteady on his feet.

“The keys of the car were in his pocket, there was beer bottles in the car and he told me that he had been fishing that day.”

The court was then told that the defendant was subsequently arrested on suspicion of drink driving at 8:15pm and taken to Longford Garda Station where an intoxyliser test indicated a reading of 175 ml/alcohol per 100 ml/blood.

Counsel for the defendant, Mr Gerard Groarke BL then pointed out to the court that the ambulance driver had indicated that it was 8:15pm when he observed the defendant driving on the road at Killydoon, and Garda Fallon said it was 8:15pm when he arrested his client [in Granard], so there was therefore an obvious discrepancy with time.

Mr Groarke also pointed out that his client did not have good English and did not understand Garda Fallon at the time of the incident.

“There was no interpreter present when my client gave a sample at the station either,” added Mr Groarke BL before indicating that an interpreter was present, however, when the defendant was being interviewed by gardaí.

In her direct evidence to the court, Garda Denise Dockery explained that she was the member in charge when the defendant was brought to the garda station on the night in question.

She said it was just before 9pm and she was aware that Garda Fallon had arrested a man under the Road Traffic Act in Granard.

“I called an interpreter by phone and she spoke to the defendant; at 9:12pm he provided two breath specimens and he indicated to me that he understood everything that was going on around him,” she said.

The court then heard that the defendant was taken to a room at the garda station for the purpose of breath test at 9:12pm where the two breath specimens were provided and at 10:56pm gardaí received a blood sample.

Mr Groarke BL then asked Garda Dockery how it worked when an interpreter was contacted by phone to help with procedures at a garda station.

“The interpreter is put on loudspeaker ,” the Garda added, before pointing out that she explained everything to the defendant and he had indicated to her that he understood everything that she was saying.

Counsel for the defendant then told the court that the driving appeared to have taken place at around 8pm and the procedures at the garda station weren’t completed until 10:56pm - all under three hours.

“The inference that can be drawn is not strong enough to warrant a sample taken at 10:56pm ,” Mr Groarke added.

Addressing Mr Groarke BL, Judge Johnson said that Garda Fallon clearly stated that he arrested the defendant at 8:15pm.

He also pointed out that procedures in respect of the matter had been carried out between 8:15pm and 10:56pm - two hours and 42 minutes with a lapse of 18 minutes [ three hour legal time frame].

“As far as this court is concerned it is possible to infer that procedures were carried out within the three hour period,” the Judge said.

During his ruling on the matter Judge Johnson acknowledged that the time frame “was very tight”.

“The evidence of the ambulance men is was that they observed him driving at 8:15pm ; Garda Fallon said he arrested Mr Waclaw at 8:15pm - so the evidence of the ambulance men is not correct,” added Judge Johnson before pointing to the time constraints.

“The sample was taken at 10:56pm and I am satisfied to infer that there was sufficient time and the accused was processed within the three hour period.”

Meanwhile, the Judge went on to say that an interpreter is made available so that the accused can understand his rights and what procedures will happen regarding him.

“Garda Dockery said she didn’t have any difficulty with communicating with the accused even though his English is broken and Garda Fallon said Mr Waclaw gave his name and address and was able to tell the Garda that he had been fishing earlier that day,” continued the Judge.

“I have no doubt that the accused knew exactly what was going on and I am upholding the district court appeal.”