Google+ Followers

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Supreme Court overturns drink-driving conviction

Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman delivered judgment on the case days before his death

The Supreme Court has overturned a man’s drink-driving conviction due to a judge’s failure to give reasons for refusing to allow an expert to inspect an Intoxilyser breath-testing machine.

The Supreme Court has overturned a man’s drink-driving conviction due to a judge’s failure to give reasons for refusing to allow an expert to inspect an Intoxilyser breath-testing machine.
In what was his last judgment, delivered days before he died on Monday, Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman of the Supreme Court noted no laws have been enacted to address the “unilateral abolition” in most cases of an opportunity for independent analysis of evidential breath specimens.

He said that this was despite the Supreme Court having previously identified such opportunities as “critical to fair procedures and Constitutional justice”.
Evidential breath specimens are specimens used in court that were taken from a drink-driving suspect in a Garda station and analysed using an Intoxilyser.
They have a different status from roadside breath specimens, which are used for screening purposes only.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Hardiman criticised “needlessly complex and confusing” statutory provisions concerning drink-driving offences.
He said the way in which the relevant provisions are amended and substituted makes the law “positively misleading” and tended to make “a nonsense of the important legal principle that everyone is deemed to know the law”.

Case details
The case arose after the man was convicted at Roscommon District Court of drink-driving on July 21st, 2008, at Elphin, Co Roscommon.
After losing his challenge to his conviction in the High Court, the man appealed to the Supreme Court.

The man’s solicitor had asked District Court Judge Geoffrey Browne to allow an expert on his side test the Intoxilyser and also sought documents relating to operation and maintenance of the machine itself.

Those requests were refused.
Mr Justice Hardiman ruled there was “uncontradicted evidence” the judge gave no reasons for the refusal.
The obligation to give reasons for a District Court decision has been well-established since a Supreme Court decision some 20 years ago, the judge said.

Mr Justice Hardiman ruled the man was entitled to have his conviction quashed over the failure to give reasons.

Mary Carolan