A CASTLEBAR taxi driver, Mr Roger Devine of Moneen Road, Springfield, was convicted of breaching the Public Health (Tobacco) Act, 2004, in Castlebar District court last week.
The case was taken by the Health Services Executive (HSE) after County Mayo’s Chief Environmental Health Inspector, Mr Cathal Kearney, witnessed the defendant, Mr Devine, smoking in his taxi on the night of June 8 last.
The defendant was parked at the taxi rank on Main Street, close to Wynnes shop shortly after 11.30 pm on the night. Mr Kearney told counsel for the prosecution, Mr Patrick Durcan, that after Mr Devine entered his Mercedes taxi with a lit cigarette, he held it out the window but intermittently smoked it. Mr Kearney alleged that the defendant moved the taxi forward in the rank while still smoking.
“Have you automatic transmission?“ asked Judge Mary Devins. She was attempting to deduce how the defendant could manoeuvre his car while still holding the cigarette out the window.
Defending solicitor, Kevin Bourke, challenged Mr Kearney about whether, as stipulated by the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002, he had seen his client, ‘sniffing, chewing or sucking the cigarette’. Mr Kearney replied he had seen puffs of smoke in the car, which, in Judge Devins’ opinion, invoked the spirit and meaning of the Act, unless, she suggested, the defendant had stopped breathing.
Mr Bourke also questioned the prosecution’s failure to retain the evidence - he likened ‘the smoking butt’ to being ‘the smoking gun’ of the case. Judge Mary Devins argued that the 2004 tobacco legislation hardly expected officers to scramble around gathering butts in special pooper scoopers.
Roger Devine (44), was fined €1,000 and ordered to pay €500 towards the HSE’s expenses.