The Court of Appeal has found that the detention of a Romanian man, arrested on suspicion of drink driving, was not unlawful, despite Gardaí not telling him that they didn’t think he needed an interpreter.
However, the court found that it was up to the trial judge to decide whether the breath sample taken from the man was admissible in evidence.
The man was stopped by a garda in Dublin in December 2013, after the officer noticed him driving along, dragging a traffic cone under his front bumper.
The garda testified in the District Court case that he smelled alcohol on the man’s breath and noticed that his speech was slurred. The man said that he had consumed a couple of drinks at a Christmas party and he was taken to a garda station, where he provided two breath specimens.
There was no discussion about an interpreter during his time in custody, with the garda later giving evidence that the arrested man’s English was good. However, the District Court judge found that there was a breach of the regulations covering interpretation and translation for people in custody in Garda Stations.
The breaches found were that the member in charge did not inform the defendant of any opinion that the accused did not need an interpreter; and that the member in charge failed to make note of such an opinion in the custody record.
The judge then referred a question to the Court of Appeal, asking if his detention was therefore unlawful or any evidence flowing from it inadmissible.
Judgment was delivered this afternoon by Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh, who sat with Court President Justice George Birmingham (presiding) and Justice John Edwards.
They found that the breaches did not render the detention of the accused unlawful.
However, they said that the trial judge had a discretion to admit or exclude the breath sample evidence in accordance with the ordinary principles relating to the admissibility of evidence obtained in a context where there had been an illegality but not a breach of a constitutional right.
They said that it was relevant that there was no causal link between the breaches of the regulations and the obtaining of the breath specimen, but that the trial judge should consider all of the relevant factors in exercising his discretion.