Man says he fell out of Garda car after drink-drive arrest in Cork

A man claimed he fell out of a moving patrol car on his way to a Garda station after he had been arrested for drink driving, the High Court heard.

Gardaí claimed however, John O’Brien, of Castle Rd, Knockadoon, Ballymacoda, Co Cork, had deliberately jumped.

The court ruled that, because of a Garda failure to preserve the car for inspection, Mr O’Brien was entitled to an order halting a case against him for attempting to frustrate his prosecution.

Mr O’Brien claimed that he would have been in a position to challenge the attempted frustration charge because the functioning of the car’s central locking system was a material issue.

The DPP said a suggestion that the car’s central locking was defective was “entirely fanciful”.

Gardaí said the patrol car was destroyed a few months after the incident because it had reached its end of life.

Granting Mr O’Brien an order halting the case, Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley said his solicitor had sought inspection of the car shortly after the incident and long before he was charged.

“In those circumstances, the decision to send, or to release, the car for destruction without notification to the applicant is very difficult to comprehend,” she said.

It also fell “very far short” of best practice identified in a previous Supreme Court case, she said.

Mr O’Brien was arrested on December 4, 2012, on suspicion of drink driving. He said he was placed in the rear of the patrol car and was not wearing a seat belt. As the car went round a bend, he was caused to lean against the door, which opened unexpectedly and he fell out.

Gardaí claimed he had a seat belt on and the central locking was activated. During the journey, Mr O’Brien was seen to release his seat belt, pull open the door, and jump out, they said.

He spent two days in hospital where a blood sample resulted in him being charged with drink driving and attempting to frustrate prosecution for that offence.

He brought High Court judicial review proceedings seeking to stop the case for alleged frustration of the prosecution claiming his right to a fair trial had been breached by the crushing of the car.

Ms Justice O’Malley said the destruction of the vehicle was a breach of duty to preserve evidence. The reason given that the car had reached its “end of life” was not adequate, she said.


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