1,400 drink driving prosecutions held up following language ruling
Lawyers for the State have told the Court of Appeal that 1,400 drink driving prosecutions are being held up by a ruling that breathalyser test statements were not valid if printed in the English language only.
The Director of Public Prosecutions opened an appeal today against a ruling which found that a failure to produce the other half of a statement showing breath-alcohol levels – in Irish - was not evidence at all.
Counsel for the DPP, Diarmaid McGuinness SC, told the three-judge court that the case had its roots in a road traffic prosecution of Mihai Avadenei (29) with an address in Swords, Co Dublin.
Mr McGuinness said it related to a breath test machine, Evidenzer Irl, which reveals the levels of alcohol in a person's breath and produces two identical statements for immediate signature by the person and a garda. The statement would then be admissible under the road traffic act, he said.
However, during during District Court proceedings in 2014, solicitor Michael Staines, for Mr Avadenei, argued that the statement produced following the Evidenzer test was not valid because it was in English only.
District Court judge Colin Gibbons ruled that the document had not been “duly completed” and he asked the High Court for confirmation.
Mr Justice Seamus Noonan agreed and ruled that the person providing the specimen “shall be supplied immediately by a member of An Garda Síochána with two identical statements in the prescribed form”.
Mr Justice Noonan said a failure to reproduce an entire half of the prescribed form – the Irish language 'half' – meant it was not evidence and could not be admitted.
Mr McGuinness told the three-judge court that the regulations did not provide for a single schedule with a single form. Rather, the regulations provided for a form in each language whereby the statement can be provided in Irish and English.
Mr McGuinness said the trial judge erred in holding that there was one schedule with one form. It was patently clear, he said, that what was provided for was two schedules with a form in each or either language. It was “an error” to say the whole of it was one form, he said.
What is recorded in the two identical English statements is the totality of what is to be recorded or supplied, he said, and there was no omission of any material fact.
Barrister James Dwyer BL, for the DPP, told the court that 1,400 alleged drink-driving prosecutions were being held up across the country as a result of the ruling.
Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court would reserve judgment.