An “accomplished” Inishowen musician who refused to provide a blood or urine sample after stating the doctor taking it “could be anybody” has been banned from driving for four years.
Denis McLaughlin, Shandrum, contested the charge at Buncrana District Court.
Garda Hooks told the court that on 8th May, 2014, at 6.30pm he received a report McLaughlin (80), who had been drinking, left the Red Door restaurant and drove towards Buncrana. Gardai went to Lisfannon and saw a grey Ford Fusion, being driven by McLaughlin “swaying left to right, right to left” and crossing a continous white line on two occasions.
Garda Hookes, accompanied by Garda Kenny, signalled the car to stop and it did so at Ballymacarry roundabout. When McLaughlin was asked had he been drinking he replied: “I’ve been drinking all day.” Gda Hookes said McLaughlin had bleary eyes, his speech was slurred and there was a smell of alcohol from his breath. When asked if he understood why he was being arrested, he replied: “I had a few pints. Have you nothing better to be doing?”
Mr Hookes said McLaughlin was co-operative and was taken to Buncrana Garda Station. No Garda member trained in the intoxyliser machine was available in either the Buncrana or Letterkenny stations so NowDoc was called and Dr Brewer arrived. McLaughlin was told it was an offence not to provide a sample and indicated he understood. He then said he didn’t believe Dr Brewer was a doctor and would not provide a sample. He still refused after the Dr informed him he worked at the surgery in Buncrana and the Garda said Dr Brewer had treated members of his family. McLaughlin replied the doctor “could be anybody.”
The Gda said after “nearly 15 minutes of asking” McLaughlin to prove the sample, Dr Brewer had to leave to attend other patients. A statement from Dr Brewer was handed into court.
Defence solicitor Ciaran MacLochlainn said McLaughlin challenged the doctor to provide proof, such as a certificate of registration, but he did not do so. He said McLaughlin was “being awkward on a point,”
He added the onus was on the prosecution to prove Dr Brewer was a registered doctor but this was disputed by Garda Inspector David Murphy, who said case law stated this was presumed until proved to the contrary and the onus was on the defence to do this. McLaughlin was previously disqualified from driving for two years in 2009 for the same offence.
Mr MacLochlainn described McLaughlin as a talented musician who had spent all his life teaching children in this area. the fiddle, tin whistle.
Mr McLochlainn said that McLaughlin had “one failing in life” in that every once in a while he’ll “break out” and “go on the drink.”
He said he had been co-operative to a point where he got a “notion in his head” about the doctor and it was “pure awkwardness.”
He added: “This is a man who gave a lot of his time to this area.”
Judge Kelly said this was to “his credit” but it did not excuse his behaviour on the night.
He fined him 250 euro and disqualified him from driving for four years.
Mr MacLochlainn asked that the disqualification be postponed for six months. Judge Kelly granted this and imposed the disqualification from April 1st 2016.