District court judges around the country are striking out drink-driving cases because of continuing delay in the Supreme Court issuing a ruling on a challenge to the law, writes Michael Clifford.
Last week, up to 30 cases were struck out in Dungarvan. Judge Terence Finn said a considerable amount of time had passed since the legal matter was before the courts and it would be unsafe to now hear the cases.
The legal challenge was taken by a Romanian man Mihai Avadanei over his 2014 prosecution for drink-driving in Dublin, on the basis that the print-out from the intoxilyser machine should be in both English and Irish, as written in the Road Traffic Act, 2010.
In March 2015, the High Court upheld the appeal on his prosecution, opening the way for up to 1,100 motorists to stop their prosecutions under the same law.
Today in Letterkenny, 45 cases are up for mention after a series of adjournments while awaiting the outcome in the superior courts.
In September 2015, then transport minister Pascal Donohoe issued a new statutory instrument to correct the clause in the Act requiring the printout in both languages.
All cases initiated before that date under the 2010 Act were still liable for challenge on the basis of Mr Avadanei’s case.
The DPP had appealed the High Court ruling to the Court of Appeal, which upheld the appeal in May 2016.
The appeals court ruled that even if the Irish version of the document had been produced, it would not have added anything of substance to the document and the omission could not have misled anybody on the contents of the document.
Mr Avadanei appealed the case to the Supreme Court on a point of law. The court reserved judgment.
Susan Gray, of the PARC Road Safety Campaign, said the issue has been dragging on for too long and is having a major impact on the courts.
“This has been through all the superior courts over the last two-and-a-half years,” she said.
“Now district court judges are obviously losing patience and feel obliged to throw out these cases. It’s a shambles of prosecuting what we all know to be an offence where people lose their lives or are seriously injured.
“It’s outrageous that this whole lacuna has emerged since 2010. This has been strung out because the government has allowed a farcical gap to happen in the law.”
This article first appeared on the Irish Examiner.