Limerick drink-driving charges dismissed over time rule

Judge Patricia Harney

TWO cases against people accused of drink driving failed in a Limerick court this week after a Judge heard that Gardai could not produce evidence that either accused had been driving in the three hours before they were tested for drink.

The court saw a video, filmed on a phone by a bystander, of a car owned by Joan Sheehy (68) of Clonoughter, Glin crashing into a parked car at East Mall,Glin on March 12 last year.

Giving evidence to Judge Patrica Harney at Kilmallock District court, the person who recorded the clip said:”I heard a car coming fast and being revved hard. I took my phone out and recorded it. It smashed off a parked car and drove off.”

In the clip and the witness could be heard shouting “S*** – she’s flamin’,” as he recorded the crash.

Judge Harney advised him not to wait for a call from the Oscars after viewing the clip.

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Asked by Inspector Gearoid Thomson what time the incident had happened, the witness said first it was “the afternoon” and then said is was around noon.

The court heard that Ms Sheehy was seated in her car when Gardaí arrived at the scene.

Garda Elaine Freemantle gave evidence that Ms Sheehy “became emotional and started crying”.

“She was begging me not use the machine (breathalyser) on her. I could tell Ms Sheehy was under the influence of an intoxicant. She admitted she had been driving.

“She became verbally abusive to the woman who owned the damaged car,” Garda Freemantle said.

The court heard that Ms Sheehy was arrested and brought to the Garda station where a blood sample was taken from her at 3.25pm.

Ms Sheehy’s solicitor, Ross McMahon, said that there was “no evidence, other than that from the witness, of what time my client was driving.”

He told the Judge that, under law, any sample taken for the purposes of a drink-driving prosecution had to be taken within three hours of the person having been driving the vehicle.

According to the evidence before the court, the witness saw her driving more than three hours before that, he said.

Inspector Gearoid Thomson said that while the witness had been vague about the time, Gardaí had been called to the scene at 1pm, which put it in the legal time frame.

The Judge accepted what the defence had said and allowed the plea of not guilty to drink driving and guilty to careless driving.

Mr McMahon said Ms Sheehy was “very remorseful. She says this was an aberration.”

Judge Harney said the driving was “on the very high end of careless”.

“It was terrifying. The witness could be heard screeching as she crashed into the car. What if that had been a child?”

She fined Ms Sheehy €100 and banned her from driving for a year, deferring the ban for six months.

Earlier in Tuesday’s sitting, Judge Harney had dismissed a case against another alleged drink-driver after hearing there was no proof of what time the driving had happened.