herald

Monday 5 December 2016

Drink-drive cases in doubt as test results not in Irish

A breath alcohol test statement is not a valid piece of evidence if it is in English only, a High Court judge has ruled.
A breath alcohol test statement is not a valid piece of evidence if it is in English only, a High Court judge has ruled.
Judge Seamus Noonan said that the statement made following the alcohol test had to be written in Irish and English

Hundreds of drink-driving prosecutions could be thrown out after a High Court ruling that a breath alcohol test statement is invalid if it is in English only.

High Court Judge Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said there was “no ambiguity” in a law which says that gardai – when using the Evidenzer alcohol breath test machine – must supply printouts from the machine in Irish and English.

The ruling effectively means a breath alcohol test statement is not a valid piece of evidence if it is in English only.

Susan Gray, of road safety group PARC, said the news would be “very distressing” for families who had lost loved ones to drink-drivers.

“Members of PARC were attending a number of court hearings where we observed solicitors asking judges to dismiss drink-drive charges for this very reason,” she said.

“We wrote to the Minster [Paschal Donohoe] and asked him if there was a loophole there to close it as soon as possible.

“It is extremely worrying for us and it must be troubling for the gardai also who are trying to bring these people to justice.

“Again, we call on Mr Donohoe to sort this out.”

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said yesterday that a statement produced after a test had been performed by gardai on Mihai Avadenei (29) for a drink-driving offence had not been printed in Irish.

He said Avadenei, of Lioscianan, Swords, could face up to six months in jail and/or a €5,000 fine.

He said that in April last year, a first breath test was  performed on Avadenei after he had been stopped by Gda Francis McMahon for driving at 80kph in a 50kph zone.

FAIL

Gda McMahon had performed an Alcotest which resulted in a “fail”.

He arrested Avadenei and took him to Store Street Garda Station where a further test using the Evidenzer equipment  revealed a concentration of 54 micrograms of alcohol per 100ml of breath.

In July last year, during district court proceedings, Avadenei’s legal team argued that the statement produced following the Evidenzer test was not valid because it was in English only.

Judge Colin Gibbons said the document had not been “duly completed” and asked the High Court for confirmation.

Judge Noonan yesterday said there was no ambiguity in the law and gardai must supply statements in Irish and English.

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