DPP v Laing

JudgeMr. Justice Eagar
Judgment Date13 January 2017
Neutral Citation[2017] IEHC 3
CourtHigh Court
Docket Number[2016 No. 762 S.S.]
Date13 January 2017



[2017] IEHC 3

[2016 No. 762 S.S.]


Practice & Procedures – S. 52 (1) of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act, 1961 – Case stated – S. 4(2) (a) of the Road Traffic Act, 2010 – Unlawful detention – Detention in prison for convenience of garda – Administrative discretion

Facts: The present case came to the High Court by way of a case stated wherein the learned District Court Judge had sought the opinion of the Court on the issue of detention by the Garda. The key issue was the arrest and detention of the accused/applicant in the cell for obtaining a sample from him in relation to the drunken driving as the named Garda was the only person present and in-charge of the relevant police station. The accused argued that it was unlawful to curtail his liberty for administrative convenience.

Mr. Justice Eagar held that the detention of the accused in the cell was lawful. The Court held that it was reasonable to detain a person for a limited time period with a view to complete formalities and other necessary tests; however, doing so while handling multiple responsibilities was inconceivable. The Court found that the detention of the accused had occurred so as to ensure his safety and that the accused would not leave the police station without attending the medical practitioner. The Court opined that given the number of deaths taking place in Ireland due to drunken driving, it would not be absurd if the liberty of persons accused of too much driving were curtailed for some time so that appropriate arrangements could be made within a stipulated time frame.

Consultative case stated
JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Eagar delivered on the 13th day of January, 2017

This is a judgment in respect of a case stated by Judge Mary Devins of the District Court pursuant to s. 52 (1) of the Courts (Supplementary Provisions) Act, 1961 and the Rules of the District Court.


The following were the facts and evidence proved before Judge Mary Devins.

1. At a sitting of Ballina District Court on the 8th of July 2014 Geoffrey Laing (hereinafter the accused) appeared before Judge Devins to answer inter alia a charge preferred against him alleging an offence contrary to s. 4 (2) (a) and (5) of the Road Traffic Act, 2010 as follows:—

‘On the 21st of September 2013 at Tolan Street, Ballina, Mayo a public place in the said district area of Ballina, did drive a mechanically propelled vehicle registration number 00MH4293 while there was present in your body a quantity of alcohol such that within three hours after so driving, the concentration of alcohol in your body did exceed a concentration of 50 mgs of alcohol per 100 mls of blood (to wit 253 mgs of alcohol per 100 mls of blood.’

2. Inspector Declan Rock of Ballina garda station appeared on behalf of the prosecution and Mr. Denis Molloy solicitor represented the accused.


Judge Devins stated that on 8th July, 2014 she heard oral evidence as follows:—

1. Garda Caroline Clarke gave evidence that on the 21st of September 2013 she attended at the scene of a traffic accident at Tolan Street, Ballina, County Mayo arriving there at 3.12 pm. She stated that one Thomas Muldoon informed her that he was driving in heavy traffic and when he was rear ended by the vehicle that was behind him at the time. The accused, Geoffrey Laing, was the driver of the other vehicle. When he spoke with Mr. Laing, she observed that his eyes were bleary, his speech was slurred and there was a strong smell of intoxicating liquor from him and that she formed the opinion that he had consumed intoxicating liquor. She performed a roadside breath test which he failed. She then formed the opinion that he was under the influence of an intoxicant to such an extent as to render him incapable of having proper control of a vehicle in a public place. She arrested him under s. 4 (8) of the Road Traffic Act, 2010 as Amended, for an offence under s. 4 (1), (2), ( 3), or (4) of the Act. She cautioned him and arrested him and brought him to Ballina garda station arriving at 3.45 pm and introduced him to the member in charge, Garda Sean Haugh for the purpose of his detention. In her presence the member in charge entered the prisoner's details in the custody record and gave him a notice of his rights and informed him of those rights in ordinary language. She then contacted Dr. Brunker at 3.55 pm to attend the prisoner and he arrived at 4.45 pm when he arrived at 4.45 pm, she made a requirement from the accused to permit the doctor to take from him a sample of blood. All the relevant requirements were complied with and the accused provided a sample of blood that was forwarded to the medical bureau of road safety. The accused was released forthwith from custody at 4.59 pm. A certificate of analysis was later received from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety which returned a reading of 253 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of breath, above the legal for drunk driving which certificate was handed in to court.

2. Evidence was heard from other civilian witnesses and in relation to another charge but that evidence is not relevant for the purposes of this case stated.

3. The defence applied for a direction and Devins J. refused to grant a direction and the defence went into evidence. The defence called Garda Sean Haugh who was the member in charge at the Garda Station on the night in question.

4. He gave evidence that the accused was introduced to him as a suspect in relation to a drink driving offence. He said he gave him his statement of rights, which were acknowledged and then placed the prisoner in the cell at 16:10. Copy of the custody record was handed in to court. The Garda confirmed that he had asked the accused to empty out his pockets and that the placed him in the cell at 16:10 and that he remained in the cell until the doctor arrived at 16:45. The Garda could not remember if he had asked the accused to remove his shoes before placing him in the cell but he confirmed that it would be normal practice to do so. He stated he did not know what time the doctor was going to arrive at the station so it was necessary to place the accused in the cell so that he and Garda Clarke could continue in the performance of their duties, while waiting for the doctor. Garda Haugh said it was routine to detain a person in a cell while awaiting the arrival of a doctor to take a sample. He stated that if the prisoner was not placed in a cell that he would have to sit in the custody area with the prisoner until such time as the doctor arrived and that would limit his ability to answer the phone or attend to the hatch.


At this stage Devins J. expressed her view that if a person had never been in a cell before it would be a traumatic experience to be placed in a cell. She also referred to the treatment of persons in custody regulations and the requirements that the gardaí should at all times respect the dignity of persons as human beings.


Under cross-examination, Garda Haugh confirmed that he was the only member in charge at the Garda Station with responsibility for prisoners. He was asked if another prisoner came in, what would he do with that prisoner and he stated he would process them and search them and place them in the cell. He stated that the reason for this was so that any enquiries that needed to be carried out could be carried out and so he could proceed with his duties such as attend the hatch or answering the phones. He said there was a health and safety issue particularly if there was one prisoner and one garda present.


At this stage Mr. Molloy for the defence applied for a direction relying on the recent Supreme Court case of the DPP v. Cullen [2014] IESC 7 and the judgment of Fennelly J. He stated there was an analogy with the Cullen in that there was no assessment made of any possible risk from his client because he was put in a cell. He argued that the arrest which was originally lawful became unlawful by virtue of the fact that he was put in the cell, for the convenience of the garda. Inspector Rock submitted that it was standard procedure to detain persons at a Garda Station in a cell for the safety of prisoners and the safety of gardaí present.


Devins J. adjourned the matter as she was considered whether she could state a case to the High Court in view of the Supreme Court decision in Cullen.


On 28th April, 2015 the prosecuting inspector sought to distinguish Cullen and submitted that Cullen deals with the procedure where a person is arrested case in public but does not apply to the situation where a person is lawfully detained in a garda station. He submitted that if a person can be detained in a garda station for as long as is reasonably necessary to take a sample under the drink driving legislation, then it must be accepted that the person is deprived of their liberty and cannot be free to go. He stated that placing a person in a cell does not lead to unreasonable force being applied to that person. It simply relates to the place where an accused in deprived of their liberty. He then went on to state that if the accused was in an uncontained area, then the accused could just walk out of the station. He further submitted that the gardaí have a duty to prevent escape and to prevent self harm.


Devins J. said she considered the submissions made and had decided to state a case to the High Court to determine the following issues of law:

1. Was the detention of the accused at the garda station unlawful in the circumstances of the present case?

2. If the answer to one is in the affirmative, is the evidence obtained thereafter inadmissible?


The statutory basis of the arrest in this case is provided in...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT