As a reporter, I once worked in the courts for many years and must have covered, literally, thousands of cases but I don’t recall any defence to match the one mounted by an innovative Kerry solicitor last week that got two defendants off on drink-driving charges.

Lest I be accused of condoning drink driving, let me hasten to say that I most certainly do not.  But there are marginal cases when it is clear that defendants are not even remotely drunk but are just over the legal limit and, like most people, I would have a certain amount of sympathy for such defendants in their predicaments.

There is a body of opinion out there that believes the penalties and consequences for people caught driving while barely over the limit is extremely severe when compared to others convicted of different crimes.  It could be argued that a person with a glass of wine or half-pint too much is treated much more harshly by the law than some defendants convicted of violent assaults and a range of civil disturbance offences that make the lives of other people a misery. Of course, the simple answer is for people not to drink and drive but there is the makings of a debate there that might one day be addressed.

But, back to our friends in Kerry.  Two men were before Judge James O’Connor in Killorglin District Court charged with separate excess alcohol charges.  There is a 20-minute period when a suspect must be observed by the gardai before a test is taken and, during that time, the suspects must consume ‘nil-by-mouth’.  The court was told by the sergeant-in-charge at the station that one of the men asked to go to the toilet seven minutes into his period of observation while the second motorist asked to go just one minute into the observation period.  In each instance, the men were observed by a garda while they urinated.

Enter defence solicitor Padraig O’Connell who maintained that the trips to the toilet had interrupted the 20-minute observation period and, to comply with the law, the required periods of observation should have been restarted on the men’s return from the toilet.  The solicitor also pointed out that, as the men had their backs to the garda observer while urinating, he could not see their mouths and, therefore, could not guarantee the ‘nil-by-mouth’ rule.

Noting that one of the men was just two milligrams over the legal limit, Judge O’Connor pointed out that steam usually emanated from the stream of a person who was urinating and that person could well be inhaling vaporised alcohol.  He dismissed both cases.

When is a doctor not a doctor?

Still on the subject of drink driving, there was another interesting defence mounted in Claremorris District Court last week.  A motorist was arrested on suspicion of being over the legal limit and brought to the garda station where all the required procedures were carried out and a sample was taken by a woman doctor called by the gardai.

However, when the case came before Judge Geoffry Browne, solicitor Evan O’Dwyer pointed out that the Medical Council had no record of the doctor who was a non-national and, in his (the solicitor’s) opinion, she could not be considered to be a doctor within the meaning of the Road Traffic Act.

When asked to expand on his claim, Mr O’Dwyer said he had contacted the Medical Council on the morning of the hearing and was informed that the doctor in question was not registered with the Council. Judge Browne pointed out that it was possible the doctor had been registered when the offence occurred but was not now registered because she might have left the country.  He adjourned the case for the matter to be clarified.

Scurrilous lousers

The column seems to have a drink driving theme this week but the following story really does need highlighting because it involves scurrilous lousers of the worst kind preying on vulnerable elderly people.

It might be best not to say where it is actually happening but a group of con-artistes have been successfully extorting money from elderly people as they drive home following a few social drinks.  From what I’ve been told, the scam usually happens in country areas but any quiet stretch of road will do nicely even in the leafy suburbs.

The crooks target people whom they suspect have a certain amount of money and are dependent on their cars to get about.  They particularly seek out elderly men who live alone and chance driving home from the pub after a game of cards and a few social pints.  Once the crooks are happy with their ‘mark’ they lie in wait on a quiet stretch of road and when the unsuspecting victim comes along they engineer a very minor accident.  Sometimes there is no contact at all but the prime boys and girls already have a nice big dent on their car to show the hapless victim.

The con-artistes then make a big fuss about calling the gardai and feign concern hoping that the elderly person doesn’t have any alcohol on board.  Then, when the victim is frightened and upset enough, they suggest, out of the goodness of their hearts, that they mightn’t call the gardai and cause all the fuss and bother that would ensue if a cash payment was immediately forthcoming.  Sadly, according to my sources, the crooks have collected nicely on more than a few occasions.

Kilkenny bahs to the Waterford blaas!

You would have read in this newspaper last week that the famous Waterford blaa won a major prize at the Euro Toque Food Awards in Dublin.  The competition is organised by a group of European chefs intent on promoting high-quality food production and culinary traditions.

One of the big things going for the blaa is that it contains no preservatives and that means it has a very short shelf life.  The award winning producers were Harney’s Bakery, Hickey’s Bakery, M&D Bakers and Barron’s Bakery.

But, wouldn’t you know it, certain people across the bridge pounced on the fact that Harney’s blaas are now baked in South Kilkenny and have made a big deal about the black and ambers being the best producers of blaas as well as hurling.  Perhaps, before they get too cocky, the slaggers should dwell on the fact that, maybe, it is the Waterford blaas that built up the Kilkenny hurlers.

Thirty-year-old curse

A man, at the end of his tether, goes to a faith-healer who is also reputed to be a white-witch, in other words, a good wizard.    “Please”, cries the man, “can you remove a curse that was put on me thirty years ago.”

The faith-healer/wizard and the man prayed together for a while and then the wizard began to recite incantations in a strange language that the man had never heard before.

Suddenly, a bright light appeared to shine out of the wizard’s eyes and he went into a trance-like state.

“The spirits have given me permission to help you”, he said in a high-pitched, sing-song voice, “but first you must think very carefully and try to remember the exact words of the curse that was put upon you.”

The man, tears flowing down his cheeks with relief, closed his eyes and concentrated as hard as he could.  “I can’t remember every single word”, he blurted out, “but it began with me being asked if I ‘took this woman’ and ‘I do’ was the last thing I remember saying.”