Dangerous driving charges against Fine Gael MEP Avril Doyle were today thrown out of court.
At Dublin District Court, Miss Doyle from Kitestown, County Wexford, faced charges of careless driving, driving without reasonable consideration and dangerous driving, all on March 26, 2002, at the M50 motorway in Santry.
Judge Ann Watkin said the state’s delay in taking the case had been prejudicial to Miss Doyle. She dismissed the charges.
“It had to be a dismissal on the grounds of delays,” she said.
Ms Doyle topped the poll in Leinster in the 1999 European election. She was re-elected as an MEP for the East constituency this year.
She was involved in a collision with a female driver on the M50 in March 2002. The court heard that the state served a summons on Ms Doyle in September that year and a hearing date was set for February 2003.
Justin McQuaid BL, representing Ms Doyle, said his client had never received the summons.
Ms Doyle, who had become extremely agitated, then moved up to the front of the courtroom and requested Mr McQuaid to put her on the stand.
“I never received the first summons,” she told Judge Watkin.
Lawyers for the state admitted they had no proof that the summons had been served.
There was no suggestion that Ms Doyle had given the wrong address at the scene of the accident.
Due to court congestion, a re-issued summons was not served on Ms Doyle until last January and the case did not come to court until April.
Ms Doyle did not appear, due to a diary error by her solicitor, and a bench warrant was issued for her arrest.
Mr McQuaid said the warrant was executed the following day by arrangement with the Gardai.
Judge Watkin said this non-appearance had delayed the case a little.
But she added that the delay on the part of the state could not be justified.
“A delay of two years is prejudicial per se because it is a breach of a person’s rights to keep them waiting,” she said.
Judge Watkin said the state was primarily relying on the memory of people who had seen the incident more than two years earlier.
“You cannot expect witness evidence to be reliable in that event,” she said, dismissing the charges.
Ms Doyle, who is also the president of the Equestrian Federation of Ireland, left the court with her legal representatives.
“I’m glad that it’s all over,” she said.
The female driver who was involved in the M50 collision confirmed outside the court she was taking a civil case against Ms Doyle.