Carrick-on-Shannon District Court
A Carrick-on-Shannon man who was almost three times the legal limit was convicted of driving with excess alcohol in his urine and disqualified from driving for two years.
Charges of dangerous driving, failure to comply with a breath test, and threatening, abusive and insulting words or behaviour were all dismissed against Frank McLoughlin, 32 St Patrick's Park, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim
Garda Tom Currid gave evidence that at 1.42am on March 1, 2020 he observed a car driving towards him on Main St, Carrick-on- Shannon. The vehicle turned left onto Priest’s Lane. He said it appeared to be driving at speed. He followed the car and saw it swaying from side to side and over the centre of the road. He signalled for it to stop. The driver, Frank McLoughlin, got out and stumbled and had to hold onto the car for balance.
He said there was a strong smell of alcohol from his breath, his speech was slurred and his eyes were glassy. He formed an opinion at 1.45am and explained it to Mr McLoughlin in ordinary language before arresting him.
After caution, Mr McLoughlin said to him, ‘would ye f**king leave me alone?’
He said Mr McLoughlin was quite aggressive at the scene, his fists were clenched and he struck Garda Currid in the stomach. He was shouting that he had a dog in the car. Garda Currid said Mr McLoughlin calmed down and sat into the patrol car and was taken to the local garda station.
Garda Currid carried out the 20 minutes statutory period of observation in the station.
He said to him ‘If i was a f**king foreigner I’d probably get away with it.’
He was taken to the doctor’s room to provide a sample but failed to provide one. He attempted again and it also failed.
The print out from the machine recorded an ‘incomplete’ reading. He said Mr McLoughlin commented, ‘F**k it, I’m sorry’.
Garda Currid returned to the custody area to wait for NowDoc who were dealing with another prisoner in the station.
The defendant was then taken to the doctor’s room where he gave a sample of urine to the doctor. He was then released and given a lift home.
Garda Currid sent the samples to the Medical Bureau of Road Safety which returned a certificate of analysis showing a concentration of 185/100 urine.
Defending solicitor, Niamh McGovern asked him about the car and why it came to his attention.
Garda Currid said it looked like the car was shaking as it turned the corner, that perhaps it was in a low gear.
Ms McGovern put it to Garda Currid that he knew Mr McLoughlin. He replied that he did have previous dealings with him but didn’t know his vehicle.
She said Mr McLoughlin has mobility issues and wouldn’t be mobile and would hold onto the car to hold himself up.
Ms McGovern said Mr McLoughlin would also say he was not aggressive at the scene. Garda Currid said he was aggressive at the start but calmed down and was compliant for the rest of the process.
Ms McGovern told Judge Kevin Kilrane she had a few issues she would like a direction on.
She said there was a previous case recently where Judge Kilrane queried if a vehicle swaying on the road was a sufficient reason for stopping someone for drunk driving. She said she couldn’t understand the reason for stopping her client and said it was also hard to understand how a car was shaking on the road.
The other issue, she said, related to the garda station and the breath sample. She said there was no certificate of proof handed into court that he failed to give a sample.
Ms McGovern said it was hard to understand what happened in the station. She said it was only by default Mr McLoughlin was offered to give a blood or urine sample and she questioned what his status was when he returned to the custody area.
She also questioned the procedure in the separation and sealing of the samples.
Inspector Tom Collins, in reply, said the garda had a suspicion about the vehicle and stopped it. He said the certificate of proof, while not handed in, was in court and he said the garda gave evidence that there was compliance with the procedures.
Judge Kilrane said the previous case was totally different. He said the gardai came on a vehicle that was being driven properly, but a bit fast, and it transpired the gardai were themselves going a bit faster. He said it was only later the gardai noted the vehicle swerving and stopped it.
He said the gardai have to act on suspicion and Garda Currid saw the car swerving on the road.
Judge Kilrane said he was satisfied that the opinion was properly formed and all procedures were properly adhered to.
He said the defendant was taken out to the custody area but there was no question the defendant was going to be released and a doctor would have been called if one had not already been present.
Judge Kilrane said he was concerned about the charge of failing to comply with the breath test. He said the defendant tried to provide a sample and the garda seemed to accept that.
He said the defendant failed to provide a sample but did genuinely try and it was wrong that a person would be convicted for being unable to carry out a physical task. The judge said there was no suggestion Mr McLoughlin was incapable of doing it because he was drunk and he dismissed the charge.
In relation to the charge of dangerous driving, Judge Kilrane said Garda Currid was accompanied by another garda that night and it was unusual the other garda wasn’t there to give evidence. He said the driving was “unusual” but he couldn’t agree it was dangerous or careless driving and dismissed that charge.
Frank McLoughlin said in evidence that he got out of his car when he was stopped but didn’t stumble. He said he always holds onto the door of the car as he has spinal problems and has had two operations on his spine. He denied he was aggressive and said he was anxious as he claimed to have been mistreated badly on a previous occasion.
He said there was no push to the stomach or he would have been up on a charge of assaulting the garda.
Mr McLoughlin said he is on a lot of medication, including valium and depression tablets.
Judge Kilrane said the parties obviously knew each other from before and he described Mr McLoughlin as “excitable” on the night.
He said he didn’t consider the use of the ‘f’ word in the way it was delivered to amount to a Section 6 (public order) charge. He said there was frustration and annoyance but he didn’t think there was much to it and he gave the defendant the benefit of the doubt.
Judge Kilrane convicted Mr McLoughlin on the charge of driving with excess alcohol in his urine.
He heard Mr McLoughlin had a previous conviction for hit and run in 2016 for which he received a €400 fine.
Ms McGovern said Mr McLoughlin had valid reasons for contesting the case and hoped he wouldn’t be punished for that. She said he is on a lot of medication and life isn’t easy for him.
Judge Kilrane said he had to distinguish cases between pleas of guilty and not guilty and said he had to treat differently a case that is contested. He said the defendant was not going to be penalised for contesting the case but was not entitled to the same mitigation as a plea of guilty.
He convicted and fined him €500 for the offence and disqualified him from driving for two years.
Ms McGovern asked for a postponement as Mr McLoughlin helps out his 81-year-old mother and delivers food to 75 people for Food Cloud.
Mr McLoughlin told the judge he takes 36 tablets a day for pain management. He asked for a six months adjournment.
Judge Kilrane said he had some concerns about Mr McLoughlin’s ability to drive when he is taking 36 tablets a day. He said Mr McLoughlin was looking after his elderly mother and was out at that hour “quite intoxicated.”
“Your reading was 185 and the reading that is permitted is 67. You were three times the legal limit,” he said.
Judge Kilrane said six months was too long a postponement. He said he would grant a postponement until September 1 if Mr McLoughlin gave an undertaking that he wouldn’t drink and drive again. Mr McLoughlin said he hasn’t drank in 15 months.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.