A KILKENNY publican has been completey exonerated after a prosecution for selling diluted vodka on his premises was dramtically overturned without a fight at Kilkenny Circuit Court last week and his innocence confirmed.
It follows the revelations that two of three samples taken from a bottle of vodka in his pub were perfectly legal following independent tests. Under fire watchdog, the National Consumer Agency (NCA) which took the botched case and is now left reeling and embarrased from the result of the appeal.
Charlie Malzard who runs the only pub in Stoneyford village has spoken of his pain following his miscarriage of justice following a conviction two years ago by the NCA which has now been squashed. He said that his reputation had been unfairly tarnished as a result of the adverse publicity generated by the court case even though he had appealed the decision immediately and even though it was based on a single sample taken from the vodka bottle on his premises. There were in fact three samples taken from the vodka bottle. The first, on which the prosecution was based, was below the level of alcohol required legally. However, a B sample was found to have the required percentage of alcohol after it was sent by the Malzard family to England for independent analysis. But, it was not until the third C sample was analysed a few weeks ago, that Mr Malzard was exonerated completely from any wrongdoing.
At the appeal court hearing on Wednesday, it was confirmed by the prosecution to Mr Malzard's solicitor, Matt Kearney of Smithwick's and Company that the appeal was not being contested after the third, C sample had been analysed by the NCA. However the result of that sample was not made public although it did back up, Mr Malzard's protestation of innocence. The Kilkenny People has since learned that the sample was perfectly legal, even though this was not divulged in court.
After the court case, Mrs Mary Malzard broke down in tears and spoke of her living hell since the original prosecution in October 2008 and what it now meant to have the Malzard good name back intact. She and her husband Charlie were not in court on the day the original case was heard as they thought it was to be adjourned by mutual consent but the court decided to hear it in their absence.
Her husband Charlie said he was relieved at the result and while he knew there was nothing behind the accusation, he had relived the episode every day in his head for the last two years.
He is the fifth generation of the Malzard family on the premises and he is hoping there will be one or two generations after him but said their cause was not helped by the media campaign by the NCA after the original court case in October 2008. After that he received barbed comments on the street but he complimented his customers for standing by him. "I would say 99% of them stayed with me and believed we were innocent and they kept coming in which was great," a clearly emotional Mr Malzard told the Kilkenny People.
He also praised retired Grennan College principal, Tim O'Mahony for his advice and doctor of chemistry, Caroline Phelan for all her help.
Mr Pat Carroll, chairman of County Kilkenny Vintners Association was present for the case and was one of the first to congratulate Mr Malzard and his family afterwards. "I am delighted for the Malzards, they are a fine, upstanding family and I knew they were 100 per cent innocent from day one," Mr Carroll said.
In an unusual step, Judge Alice Doyle ordered that costs in this criminal case and appeal be awarded to the Malzard family and these run into several thousand euro.
It was made clear in the course of the appeal hearing that the prosecution had facilitated the defendants at every turn and that they had bent over backwards to facilitate the Malzards and this was not contested by Mr Malzard's legal team. However, Judge Doyle did criticise the manner in which the matter had been dealt with by the District Court.
In the original court case Mr Malzard was fined 2,500 euro and ordered to pay costs and expenses of more than 1,000 euro for the alleged offence, which occurred on July 30, 2007 after which the NCA immediately issued a press release.
In another unusual step Judge Doyle ordered that the "name and shame" section of the NCA website be "rectified immediately" to reflect what had ahappened in the appeal after the section of the website was brought to her attention by counsel for Mr Malzard, Mr David Bulbulia.
There was no press release issued by the NCA after the appeal.