An off-duty drink-driving garda crashed his car at speed into an oncoming car on the wrong side of the road in west Clare over two years ago.
At Ennis District Court on Thursday, Judge Mary Larkin imposed a mandatory two-year driving ban on Stephen Byrne (39) after convicting him of dangerous driving on the road linking Inagh to Miltown Malbay on August 20, 2020.
Judge Larkin also imposed a mandatory two-year driving ban after convicting him of drink driving after he failed a road-side alcohol test on the date.
The driver of the other car in the road traffic accident, Fionnula Hogan, was removed from the scene by ambulance and remained at University Hospital Limerick for two days to be treated for her injuries.
Mr Byrne of Park Lodge, Castleknock, Dublin 15, was a ‘no-show’ for the case and in his absence the case proceeded, and the State called a number of witnesses.
In convicting Mr Byrne of dangerous driving, Judge Larkin said: “I am satisfied that the accused was on the wrong side of the road. He was going too fast, he wasn’t able to take the corner, and when he did take the corner, he struck the ongoing vehicle on the right-hand side.”
Judge Larkin said that when the first on duty garda arrived on the scene, Mr Byrne said that he didn’t know what happened.
Judge Larkin said that there was no question about Mr Byrne’s dangerous driving “as the dangerous driving was corroborated by what another motorist saw”.
The road collision took place between 2pm and 2.15pm on the date on the Inagh to Miltown Malbay road at an area known as the Five Crosses.
In evidence, Ms Hogan told the court that the car being driven by Mr Byrne had crossed over to her side of the road and was travelling at speed.
Ms Hogan said that she tried to move her Toyota Yaris Aura to the left but was unable to avoid a collision.
The back of Ms Hogan’s car ended up in the middle of a ditch on the opposite side of the road.
Ms Hogan told the court that she sustained injuries to her neck, shoulders and back.
Another motorist who witnessed the accident, Lorraine Rynne told the court:
Ms Rynne said that she had to take evasive action to avoid her own car being hit.
At a preliminary procedural hearing into the case last year, solicitor for Mr Byrne, Daragh Hassett told the court that his client would be contesting the charges.
After Mr Byrne’s failure to appear, Mr Hassett told Judge Larkin: “I’ve no submissions to make. I have no client, so I am not going into evidence.”
Judge Larkin said that she was satisfied to convict Mr Byrne of drink-driving as there were no flaws in the State case.
Due to Mr Byrne’s job-status at the time of the crash, State Solicitor for Clare, Aisling Casey prosecuted the case on behalf of the State where usually a Garda Inspector would prosecute road traffic offences against members of the public.
Judge Larkin told the court that the alcohol test had a reading of 48 over 100 and imposed a mandatory two-year driving ban.
Judge Larkin said that Mr Byrne has no previous convictions and also imposed fines of €200 on each case.
Mr Byrne does have the option of appealing the convictions and Judge Larkin set recognisance of €250 if Mr Byrne does wish to appeal.