Thurles District Courthouse
A Thurles man who drove with cocaine in his system, claimed that a girl he “shifted” on the night may have given him some, heard a sitting of Thurles district court.
Garda Faith Noonan was on duty with garda James Kelleher on September 21, 2019, in the area of Baunmore, Johnstown, Co Kilkenny, near Moyne, Co Tipperary, when she observed a vehicle ahead of them.
Garda Noonan said it was about 3.05am when she observed the car travelling “too fast” on that road, “veering from side to side”. The patrol car’s blue flashing lights were activated to stop the driver, Micheal Flanagan.
Mr Flanagan, of Parkeen, Graigue, Thurles, exited the vehicle accompanied by another male. Mr Flanagan’s tax was out of date. He explained that the car was purchased recently. On speaking to Mr Flanagan, Garda Noonan said she believed he was “slow to react” and she believed he was under the influence of an intoxicant.
Garda Noonan made a demand for Mr Flanagan to complete a roadside breath test, which showed a positive result for cocaine. Garda Noonan said she formed the opinion that Mr Flanagan was under the influence of an intoxicant to such an extent that he was incapable of properly controlling a vehicle. Mr Flanagan was arrested at 3.25am on suspicion of drug driving.
“I had some last weekend. I shifted a girl tonight and she may have given me some,” he told garda Noonan. Mr Flanagan was taken to a garda station to provide a blood sample. The sample showed a concentration of 44.8 ng/mls of cocaine in his system, or 210.7 ng/mls of benzoylecgonine, a category of cocaine.
Mr Flanagan was charged with driving with cocaine in his system greater than the limit, in the three hours prior to the sample being taken.
Solicitor Martin Dully argued that Garda Noonan’s basis for arresting Mr Flanagan was based on an “extraordinarily thin observation”, that the requirements of the 10 -minute ‘nil by mouth’ observation period had not been met, and that the manufacturer’s manual of instructions for operating the breath testing kit had not been strictly adhered to.
The machine will not function if it is not within a certain range of temperature and humidity levels, responded garda Noonan. “The test is kept heated in the back of the car,” she said.
Judge Elizabeth MacGrath said she was satisfied that the manner of driving observed, the “slow reaction” of Mr Flanagan, and the breath test result, were all sufficient to meet the threshold of evidence for garda Noonan to correctly form her opinion, and found the facts proven against Mr Flanagan.
Mr Dully said Mr Flanagan is a “relatively young man”. Mr Flanagan is a HGV mechanic based in Newbridge who goes to and from work. “He was extremely co-operative,” said Mr Dully.
Judge MacGrath said the reading was “quite high”. Mr Dully said the cocaine test can show “astronomically high numbers on quite a low intake.” Judge MacGrath fined Mr Flanagan €250 and disqualified him from driving for one year.
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