“There's an X factor in this case that I can't put my finger on but I'm not happy about it. There's something else going on but I don't know what it is,” said Judge Kevin Kilrane before dismissing charges of alleged drunk driving and careless driving in Carrick-on-Shannon District Court last week.
The case involved Justin McBride, Clogher Grange, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim who was charged with driving with excess alcohol in his breath and careless driving on July 22, 2019 at Grange, Carrick-on-Shannon.
Garda Paul Mannion said he was on patrol at 2.19am on the above date with Gardai Currid and McHale. They were in the garda van travelling into Carrick-on-Shannon from the Longford direction.
He said they noted a van driving erratically in the Attirory area which was travelling in excess of the 50kph limit. The vehicle turned down the Castlecarra Road and failed to brake at the speed bumps.
The Gardai turned on their siren and lights and the vehicle failed to stop in the townland of Keeneghan and was swaying in and out of the white line.
At Clogher townland at 2,20am, Garda Mannion said he formed his opinion and the vehicle eventually stopped in a driveway in Clogher. He spoke to the driver, Justin McBride, and said he got a strong smell of alcohol and his eyes were glassy. He arrested him at 2.25am and he was taken to the local Garda Station where Garda Currid took a sample of his breath which showed a reading of 51mcg/100mls.
John McNulty, solicitor, put it to Garda Mannion that Mr McBride would say the garda lights did not come on until about 150-200 yards from his house. He said that was not correct. Asked if it was a continuous white line on that road, Garda Mannion said he thinks it is. Mr McNulty said it is not.
Garda Tom Currid, in his evidence, said the van was driving in excess of the limit, was swaying on the road and failed to brake at the speed bumps. He said the distance from the roundabout to the house was about 2-3km.
Garda Currid said Mr McBride told him in the station that he had 15 pints.
Mr McNulty interjected and asked him where that came from and Garda Currid said the defendant told him that on the night. Asked why he hadn’t included that in his statement, he said he didn’t know.
Mr McNulty asked him if he was sure he wasn’t mixing it up with another case, to which he replied no.
He was asked who decided to follow the vehicle and he said he didn’t know, it just seemed to be going too fast.
Mr McNulty sought a direction from the judge. He said Garda Mannion first observed the vehicle at 2.19, formed an opinion at 2.20 and then arrested someone. He said they had travelled at least three or four minutes before the vehicle was stopped and his client was not signalled to stop until about 150-200 yards from his house.
Inspector Frank Egan said Garda Mannion’s opinion was in relation to his driving and swerving on the road.
Judge Kilrane asked if that was a sufficient reason to arrest someone for drunk driving. He asked if there could not have been another reason for a person to drive a little bit faster.
In relation to the charge of careless driving, Mr McNulty said the allegations against Mr McBride were very vague.
Having heard the evidence, Judge Kilrane then remarked that he was not happy about the case.
He questioned the reason why the vehicle was followed and disagreed with the Inspector who stated the gardai were acting on instinct.
Judge Kilrane said the vehicle travelled down the Castlecarra road and over the speed bumps and the garda formed the opinion he was intoxicated to such an extent to be incapable of having control of a vehicle.
He said the garda could not form that opinion at that stage, he hadn’t even spoken to the driver.
He said there could be several different reasons why someone was not driving in a straight manner on the roadway.
Judge Kilrane said there was no justification to form an opinion.
“I’m not satisfied that even the following of this car was bone fide on the night in question.
“What was going on, I don’t know, but I don’t like it. I am not being told the full situation here,” he said.
In relation to the charge of careless driving he said there was no suggestion the car was driving at such a speed that it went out of control. He said there was evidence the car was zig zagging on the road but nothing that it had crossed a continuous white line at any stage or that it had gone round a bend on the wrong side.
“I’m just not happy with the evidence. I think there’s something else here, I don’t know what it is. I’m not happy from the word go with the evidence,” he repeated, and dismissed both summonses.