Gardai who arrested a man for drunk driving in his own driveway, having followed him for about a minute, were not legally entitled to be on his property, it was argued at Sligo Court.

Defending solicitor, Mr. Gerry McGovern submitted that Gardai had to have formed the opinion that his client was guilty of drunk driving before they entered his property to arrest him, and there was no evidence of such a situation in this case.

He was representing Alexander O Driscoll, Ballyweelin, Rosses Point, who was charged with drunk driving at Ballyweelin on May 30th last.

Garda Ann Marie Grimes told the court she was on duty in the patrol car when she observed a car driven by the defendant pull out of a car park at Rosses Upper at 2.05 a.m. on May 30th. This car turned left from the car park towards the Sligo direction.

It was being driven erratically, and she signalled it to stop but it had failed to do so. The car subsequently pulled into the driveway of a house at Ballyweelin, where she spoke to the driver, whose speech was slurred.

Witness described how she arrested the defendant for drunk driving and brought him to Sligo Garda Station.

Cross-examined by Mr. McGovern, witness said it took the defendant about a minute to reach his home from the car park. She said the Garda car had driven into the driveway directly behind the defendants car.

She said she spoke to the defendant in the curtilage of the driveway and had arrested him there as well.

At this stage, Mr. McGovern asked for a direction, referring to a Supreme Court ruling that Gardai had been trespassers on private property in a case where they arrested a person in the driveway of his own home.

The law had subsequently been changed, but in a case in the High Court, it was held that Gardai could only enter private property for the purpose of making an arrest.

In the case before the court, there was no evidence that the Gardai had, in fact, formed an opinion that the defendant was guilty of drunk driving before they entered his property. Their entry onto the property could only be lawful if they had already formed that opinion.

However, Inspector Gerry Connolly, also referring to previous cases, argued that there was complied consent to allow the Gardai onto the property as the defendant had not asked them to leave. If he had done so, he conceded, there would be a problem with the prosecution case.

Judge Denis McLoughlin said he would consider the legal arguments of the respective parties and give a decision on October 8th.

Sligo Champion