A MOUNTMELLICK man detected by gardaí drunk behind the wheel of a car parked up with its engine running had a charge of drink driving dismissed at the district court, as he claimed he had simply started up the vehicle to fetch a Big Tom CD from the player.
Joseph Donoghue, 13 Cullenwood, Ballycullenbeg, Mountmellick, was observed by Garda Dermot Fearon sitting in the driver’s seat of a parked car at Kirwan Park, Mountmellick, in the early hours of September 7. Garda Fearon said he could see the lights were on in the vehicle and loud music was playing. He said he also noticed that the engine was running. When he spoke to Donoghue, he could see a bottle of Bacardi on the passenger seat and he got a strong smell of alcohol. Donoghue also had slurred speech and Garda Fearon said he found a set of keys in the footwell of the car. Forming the opinion that Donoghue was incapable of being in control of a vehicle, the garda arrested him and brought him to the garda station, where a breath sample revealed 68mg of alcohol.
Defence, Ms Josephine Fitzpatrick said that her client was attending a party at his in-laws’ house on the night and had gone outside to fetch a CD from the car. She said that when Donoghue saw the garda, he got a fright and turned the car off and threw the keys into the footwell.
Donoghue himself gave evidence, telling Judge Catherine Staines that the CD player was in the boot of the car and he had to play a number of CDs on the night to see which was the correct one. He said that he had been planning to leave the car at his in-laws after the party and he had no intention of driving.
In cross-examination, Inspector Martin Harrington put it to Donoghue that you don’t have to turn on a car’s engine to start the radio. He also asked Donoghue why he had thrown the car keys into the vehicle’s footwell.
“I panicked,” replied Donoghue.
Judge Staines asked defence whether there were any other witnesses that could testify that a party was taking place at Donoghue’s in-laws. The defendant’s wife, Mrs Ann-Marie Donoghue took the stand and said that the couple had been at her parents’ house for a party, when her father asked her husband to fetch a Big Tom CD from the car. She told the court that they had intended walking home after the party and said it was four to five minutes’ walk from her parents’ house to hers.
“Why not leave the car at home?” asked Inspector Harrington.
“I don’t know,” replied Mrs Donoghue.
Judge Staines remarked that it was possible the car had been brought over to bring the couple home, and she praised Garda Fearon for acting correctly when he saw someone intoxicated behind the wheel of the car. However, the judge said she had her doubts and dismissed the charge against Donoghue.