A 44-year-old man caught drink driving with a reading that verged on alcohol poisoning has been put off the road for 20 years and given community service in lieu of prison.
Before the recent circuit court was Peter Burke (44), Cloghgarret Abbey, Rathbride Road, Kildare, for finalisation of an appeal against a prison sentence for drink driving.
The accused was stopped driving near James Fintan Lalor Avenue, Portlaoise, on February 7, 2016, where the gardaí noticed a smell of drink from him and his speech was slurred.
At the garda station, he was found to have 287mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.
The accused had previous convictions, including drink driving.
In the district court back in May, he was sentenced to four months in jail and disqualified from driving for six years.
He appealed this prison sentence at the July Portlaoise Circuit Court, where Judge Keenan Johnson said that the reading verged on alcohol poisoning.
At the July court, defence barrister, Mr Colm Hennessy said his client had very serious difficulties with alcohol and following the suicide of his partner matters spiralled.
The appellant had since completed a 12-week programme and “embraced rehabilitation with both hands”, said defence.
Mr Hennessy said that the appellant was now an integral member of the team at Cuan Mhuire, where he was in charge of the mushroom farm.
Mr Hennessy said that his client had been completely sober for eight and a half months.
“This is one of the highest readings I’ve ever come across,” said Judge Johnson. “For somebody to drive a car with that level of intoxication it’s lucky nobody was killed.”
The judge went on to say that the court had an obligation to send out a clear message if people were going to be that reckless, due to the number of people who have suffered serious injuries or death from drunk drivers.
Taking the witness box, the appellant said that at the time of the offence he had been in a bad place. He said he had lost contact with his two daughters and it had been his daughter’s 21st birthday the day after the offence.
“If you give me a chance I’ll never be back before the court again,” he said.
In relation to the offence, he said that he’d been drinking with another man and he offered to drive the van home after.
“I wasn’t upfront with the chap,” he said.
Judge Johnson said it was a serious offence and well deserving of a custodial sentence.
“He’s not a suitable person to have a driving licence,” said the judge, adding that a “significant and long-term disqualification” was needed.
For no insurance, the judge imposed a five-month sentence, suspended for two years on condition the accused keep the peace for two years. He increased the driving disqualification to 20 years.
For drink driving, the judge imposed 240 hours’ community service in lieu of four months in prison, and disqualified the appellant from driving for 20 years, concurrent to the other disqualification.
The matter was adjourned to November 29, for a probation report to assess the appellant’s suitability for community service.
When the case returned last week, the accused was found suitable for community service and the judge imposed 240 hours in lieu of four months in prison.