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Driver escapes drink driving conviction

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A man who crashed his car driving home after drinking at the Ballinrobe Races has escaped a drink driving conviction.
Gerard Duffy (23) of Barna, The Neale, Ballinrobe admitted to drinking at the Ballinrobe Races and then continuing socialising in Westport before crashing near Partry on the way home, on the morning of June 28 last.
When cautioned by gardaí at the scene, Duffy said: “I was drinking. I’m going to be fully co-operative. That’s me off the road now.”
However, the prosecution case failed because gardaí could not prove the time of driving.
More particularly, they failed to prove that the crash took place less than three hours before a sample of blood was taken. Three hours from the last time of driving is the time limit for drink driving samples.
Colin Coyne, a friend of Mr Duffy, said he received a call from him after the crash asking for help. Mr Coyne said after arriving at the scene he knew from talking to his friend that he was ‘under the influence’. Duffy asked Coyne to ring the gardaí. Mr Coyne rang the gardaí at 4.54am. Garda Joe Kilmartin was dispatched to the scene.
Garda Kilmartin asked when the accident occurred. Duffy told him that it was ‘just before’ he rang Colin Coyne. He agreed to show Garda Kilmartin his phone which showed that call took place at 4.25am.
Garda Kilmartin said they were delayed leaving the scene as they had to wait for a tow truck to take Gerard Duffy’s car away. They arrived at Castlebar Garda Station at 6.25am and Duffy requested a sample of blood be taken. A nurse was called, arriving at 7am and the requirement for the sample was made at 7.08am.
It showed a concentration of 156 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, over three times the legal limit.
Gerard Duffy told the court that he did not ring Colin Coyne straightaway. He said he initially ran away from the scene, running 50 metres down the road but when he saw headlights of another car coming, he ‘thought it would be a brilliant idea to jump into a hedge’.
He said he went about six to eight feet down into a field but then said he ‘realised’ that it was his car that was on the road and it was registered to him so there was little point running. He went back to the car, found his phone and rang Colin Coyne.
He said he believed the accident happened at 4am.
Inspector Gary Walsh said it was ‘quite a convenient tale’ that the timeline put forward by Duffy put him outside the three hour limit. He said it was ‘a story concocted by Duffy’ to do so. He argued the events described by Duffy would have taken ten minutes, not 25 minutes.
Inspector Walsh said the call to Mr Coyne was made at 4.25am and he was ‘of the belief the call was made quite soon’ after the accident.
Judge Mary Devins said the problem was the phrase ‘quite soon’. She said the time of driving is ‘an essential proof’ for the prosecution. She said the defence do not have to prove anything.
“The timeline is too tight. I can’t make inferences,” she said, dismissing the charge.

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