Wrong address of checkpoint sees Bunlahy drink driving charge dismissed

News Reporter

Reporter:

News Reporter

Email:

newsroom@longfordleader.ie

Too early to congratulate decrease in drink driving in Laois says Garda Chief

A charge of drink driving was dismissed after the wrong location was attributed to the positioning of a garda checkpoint, a court has heard.

Eugene Farrell, of Aughacreagh, Ballinalee, Co Longford appeared at a recent sitting of Longford District Court following an incident on May 14 last year.

It emerged during the course of a lengthy hearing before Judge Erin McKiernan that the address of a mandatory alcohol testing checkpoint should have read Bunlahy, Granard and not Bunlahy, Ballinalee under which authorisation had been given by senior garda chiefs.

Garda Philip O’Keefe gave evidence of having set up the checkpoint with colleague, Garda Tony Fallon at Bunlahy, Ballinalee during the early hours of the alleged incident.

He said shortly after setting up the checkpoint, at around 1:20am he stopped Mr Farrell and spoke to him.

Upon noticing a smell of alcohol from the defendant, he asked Mr Farrell had he been drinking, a question the north Longford man replied with the simple answer: “Yes”.

Garda O’Keefe at that point, said he informed of his powers which had been provided to him under Section 10 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 to conduct the checkpoint before asking him to blow into a breathalyser.

After agreeing to the request, Mr Farrell was arrested under Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act after a reading on the device indicated the accused had failed the roadside test.

Mr Farrell was consequently brought to Longford Garda Station, not before indicating his need to gardaí to go to the toilet.

Garda Fallon returned Mr Farrell’s car to his home address before both gardaí continued to transport Mr Farrell to Longford.

Garda O’Keefe said shortly before turning down a second request from Mr Farrell to go to the toilet, a boot light on the garda patrol car lit up.

As both gardaí got out to inspect the vehicle, Garda O’Keeffe said Mr Farrell suddenly exited the car and ran off down the road.

A short chase ensued which ended in Mr Farrell falling to the ground face first.

Having returned Mr Farrell to the patrol car, the trio continued on their journey to Longford Garda Station where the defendant was cleaned up and treated for superficial injuries sustained in the fall.

A sample of Mr Farrell’s urine was taken at 3:25am by Dr Johannes Boster with Mr Farrell being given another sample for his own records.

He was released from custody soon afterwards and returned home by the two gardaí.

Under cross examination from defence counsel Niall Flynn BL, Garda O’Keeffe said he had been stationed in Granard for the past 18 years.

He also added the alleged incident in which Mr Farrell was stopped took place less than one kilometre from Creegan’s Pub.

“All I would have ever known it (place of checkpoint) to be is Bunlahy, Granard,” argued Mr Flynn.

In making a further legal submission and quoting from David Staunton’s law book, Mr Flynn insisted a 20 minute waiting period should be observed before a breath test is taken from the arrested person.

Questions were also asked as to the length of time it took from the time Mr Farrell was stopped at 1:20am until a formal specimen of his urine was taken at Longford Garda Station more than two hours later.

Mr Flynn, in returning to the location in which the mandatory alchohol test checkpoint had been authorised, said there were variances between it and the custody record taken from Longford Garda Station.

As such, Mr Flynn said because the location should have read Bunlahy, Granard and not Bunlahy, Ballinalee, gardaí therefore had no power under Section 10 of the Road Traffic Act to stop his client on the night.

He said, as a result the prosecution’s case was “fundamentally flawed” and could not proceed under such legal framework.

It was an argument which was accepted by the State, causing Judge McKiernan to dismiss the case and clear Mr Farrell of any wrongdoing.