Belfast Telegraph

Drink-drive loophole opens door to appeals

By Greg Harkin

A man who failed a breathalyser test after drinking nine pints the previous night has been cleared of the charge following a legal ruling that could spark other appeals.

The Republic's Director of Public Prosecutions withdrew a charge against a Co Donegal man whose lawyer had argued that a checkpoint at which his client was stopped by gardai was unlawful.

Other motorists who have been charged with similar offences but have yet to appear in court could now have their cases struck out if those charges are challenged in the District Court.

Sean McKeown, from Abbey Park, Manorcunningham, Co Donegal, walked free from Letterkenny District Court yesterday after a charge of driving a vehicle whilst exceeding the alcohol limit was dropped.

Garda Tara Clinton Quinn had given evidence at the court last month that she arrested 40-year-old Mr McKeown at 11.30am on November 13, 2011 in the townland of Raymoghey, Manorcunningham.

She said she had asked Mr McKeown whether he had been drinking and that he had admitted having nine pints the night before, finishing up at 1.40am.

Mr McKeown had failed the breath test, was arrested and taken to Letterkenny garda station, she said.

However the defendant's solicitor Ciaran MacLochlainn -- the former state solicitor for Donegal -- submitted lengthy legal arguments that the Mandatory Alcohol Testing (MAT) checkpoint at which Mr McKeown was arrested was unlawful.

The authorisation for the checkpoint on the date of Mr McKeown's arrest, he said, was signed by Superintendent Vincent O'Brien but it gave three different locations over a period of more than 23 hours.

Mr MacLochlainn said the authorisation was unlawful and a breach of the Road Traffic Act, which "clearly" refers to the establishment of a single checkpoint.

By giving three locations on the same authorisation form, it gave a multiple choice to officers below the rank of inspector as to where and when they could set up a checkpoint.

It was the second time the DPP had withdrawn charges in a case challenged by the solicitor.

A similar drink-driving case in Buncrana was struck out after the solicitor had argued that including a townland in the authorisation form without specifying an exact location was also a breach of the legislation.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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