A man found guilty of drink-driving tried to get the garda operating the Evidenzer breathalyser to “tamper” with the machine to get a lower reading, a court has heard.
Garda Batt Duggan told Bantry District Court that when he was explaining the workings of the Evidenzer to Sean O’Sullivan, a fisherman from Filane Middle in Castletownbere, Mr O’Sullivan “listed out names of gardaí he knew” and then “requested that I tamper with the Evidenzer in an attempt to get a low reading”.
The evidence was provided before Judge James McNulty after O’Sullivan, 45, had pleaded not guilty to the charge of drink-driving at Derrymihan West, Castletownbere, at around 1.40am on March 30.
Garda Duggan said he and a colleague had already arrested a woman following a call to Bantry Garda Station for an alleged public order offence and were returning from Castletownbere when they came across a man lying in the road at Derrymihane, with another man kneeling over him and assisting.
A blue Ford Transit was parked at the roadside and Garda Duggan said O’Sullivan told gardaí that he had “just come on the gentleman on the ground”.
However, it then became apparent that O’Sullivan was also on his mobile phone to the 999 ambulance base and was directing them to the scene.
Garda Duggan said that during this exchange he heard O’Sullivan tell the ambulance personnel that the man — John Robert O’Sullivan — had “fallen out of his vehicle as he was dropping him home”.
Under cross-examination by O’Sullivan’s solicitor, Flor Murphy, Garda Duggan said the entire situation was confusing and the differing accounts were “contradictory”.
The injured party was described as having two large lumps on his head and was bleeding. The court heard that thanks to O’Sullivan’s efforts an ambulance arrived at the scene shortly after Garda Duggan and his colleague had arrived there.
However, Garda Duggan said that while O’Sullivan was assisting the injured man, he smelled alcohol on his breath and observed slurred speech. He formed the opinion O’Sullivan may have been driving while under the influence of an intoxicant:
Garda Duggan cautioned O'Sullivan and took a memo at the scene and then, at 1.45am, arrested him and took him back to Bantry Garda Station. The memo showed O'Sullivan saying he had had four or five pints and, when asked when he had dropped off his friend, he replied "10 minutes ago".
There, the Evidenzer was used although O'Sullivan said he was having difficulty with it as he was recovering from Covid-19.
The garda in charge was informed and a doctor was requested although the two breath specimens provided were sufficient and showed him to have been over the limit.
When Garda Duggan was cross-examined by Mr Murphy he admitted that the memo of the caution did not include the question "were you driving?". Mr Murphy also said his client had been coherent enough to direct the ambulance to the spot and there was no proof his client had been driving the vehicle.
However, Judge McNulty declined defence submissions on that and related points and said there was a case to answer. No defence evidence was entered and the judge said the case had been proven.
The court heard O'Sullivan had been returning from a funeral and had no previous convictions. He was fined €500 and disqualified from driving for two years, with recognisance for appeal set at €1,500, one third in cash.