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New laws close drink-drive prosecutions loophole

Published 22/09/2015

Paschal Donohoe says the emergency legislation was drawn up amid fears over data from breath test machines
Paschal Donohoe says the emergency legislation was drawn up amid fears over data from breath test machines

New laws have been signed in to close a loophole which threatened to see hundreds of drink-driving prosecutions thrown out.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said the emergency legislation was drawn up over legitimate fears that data from breath test machines was not lawful as it did not give a read-out in both Irish and English.

Mr Donohoe said the rules have been changed "in the interests of road safety" to allow the computer statements to be given in either language.

The technicality was exposed when 29-year-old Mihai Avadenei challenged why data on his breath sample from the Evidenzer machine in a Garda station was not in Irish.

The High Court ruled that under law it was not a valid piece of evidence unless it was bilingual, forcing the Transport Minister to take the emergency action.

"The advice of the Attorney General's Office was sought in respect of the need for amending legislation on foot of the judgment in relation to the language of the forms produced by evidential breath testing machines in Garda stations," Mr Donohoe said.

"In the interests of road safety, I have moved immediately to provide the new legislation deemed necessary regarding the form of the statements to be provided under section 13 of the Road Traffic Act 2010."

Evidenzer is the machine used to take an alcohol reading on a driver's breath after he or she is detained by gardai.

Blood or urine samples can be also be taken and tested to give a more scientific reading but that requires a doctor to go to a Garda station within a specified time.

Mr Avadenei's lawyers raised concerns about the Evidenzer printout being only in English when his case came before the District Court in Swords.

The judge supported the argument but asked the High Court to rule on the point of law regarding the Prescribed Form and Manner of Statements Regulations 2011.

Mr Donohoe said the revised legislation was how the law was intended to be read.

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