A total of €2,000 in fines and a driving disqualification have been handed down to a man who refused to give a breath sample when arrested on suspicion of drink driving, and was also convicted of careless driving.
Before Kilkenny District Court was Zygmunt Ruth, 9 Avonree Court, Callan.
On Saturday, September 5, 2020, gardaí received numerous calls from the public. Garda John Moloney was on patrol and in response went to the Clashacollare area of Callan, at approximately 8pm. He observed a Megane car in the adjacent Blackstaff area. The Megane turned onto a road, in the direction of Kells. Garda Moloney followed. The other car was being driven erratically, weaving from side-to-side on the road. They came to Moanamought and Garda Moloney saw the other car slowly driving into a ditch.
The garda positioned his patrol car in front of the Megane to prevent it travelling any further. He immediately recognised the driver, Mr Ruth. He could see signs Mr Ruth was intoxicated - his eyes were glassy and he was slumped in the driver’s seat.
Garda Moloney got out of the patrol car and as he approached Mr Ruth he tried to drive away. The garda “roared at him to stop” and when he didn’t do so the garda went around to the passenger side of the Megane and again roared at Mr Ruth to stop the car. Mr Ruth looked at the garda but didn’t stop.
Garda Moloney leaned in the passenger window and, he told the court, he immediately got a smell of intoxicating liquor.
Mr Ruth attempted to speak but the garda said his speech was so slurred he couldn’t make out what he was trying to say.
At 8.10pm Mr Ruth was arrested under the Road Traffic Act. He was cautioned and made no reply.
Handcuffs were placed on Mr Ruth and he was placed in the garda patrol car, before being taken to Kilkenny Garda Station. The garda said he used the handcuffs because Mr Ruth was so intoxicated and the garda was on his own. Mr Ruth was never aggressive towards him, Garda Moloney said, “but with a drunken person you just don’t know.”
Sgt Kieran Sheehan was at Callan Garda Station and joined Garda Moloney before he left for Kilkenny City.
Garda Moloney said that in Kilkenny Garda Station he observed Mr Ruth fall off a bench. An ambulance was called to check he was OK and paramedics were satisfied Mr Ruth did not need to go to hospital.
An interpreter was contacted to translate over the phone.
When Mr Ruth was taken to the doctors’ room to give a breath specimen he failed to do so. Garda Moloney said the defendant “consistently said no” to providing any sample. Mr Ruth was in a “very distressed state,” the garda said. He said it was his wife’s anniversary and was very emotional.
When asked by the garda if he would give a sample Mr Ruth said “I won’t give anything”.
He was asked if he had any medical reason why he couldn’t give a sample, he said he had none.
Sgt Sheehan said Mr Ruth was very intoxicated. He sat in the back seat of the garda car with Mr Ruth, travelling in to Kilkenny, and he kept lying over on the sergeant. He had to prop him up. He couldn’t speak.
While in the public office of Kilkenny Garda Station Sgt Sheehan observed Mr Ruth urinate on himself and fall off a bench.
Sgt Sheehan explained to Mr Ruth that he had to give a sample. Mr Ruth said he was not going to give a sample, that he didn’t mind the consequences and had no purpose to live. He continued to talk about his wife.
Garda Ashley Lowry contacted the translator by phone and said going through the custody regulations was a lengthy process. He also observed Mr Ruth in custody.
While in the cell Mr Ruth at times banged on the door and shouted, at another time he lay on the cell floor and kicked the door with his feet, he “screamed at the top of his lungs’ and told the garda to “f*** off”.
Mr Ruth was checked every 15 minutes and he slept for a time.
The translator was again contacted by phone when it came time to charge Mr Ruth, after 11pm. He was held in the cell for a time because he was deemed to be a danger to himself. At 2am Mr Ruth was bailed and he left the station.
David Roberts, representing Mr Ruth, made an application to strike out the refusal to give a sample charge on the basis the translator was not in court to give evidence that Mr Ruth had understood what was being asked of him on the night he was arrested. This application was denied by the judge.
Mr Roberts also argued that his client was driving slowly and there was good daylight on the evening of this incident, so the charge of dangerous driving should be reduced to careless driving.
Judge Geraldine Carthy said she was satisfied Mr Ruth understood as he had stated quite clearly “I won’t give anything”. However, she agreed with Mr Roberts’ application on the dangerous driving charge and did reduce it to a charge of careless driving.
Mr Roberts said his client is 59 and his wife passed away a number of years ago. He has school-going children. He asked the court to be as lenient as possible given how difficult the loss of his licence will be to his client.
Judge Carthy convicted Mr Ruth of refusing to give a breath sample and imposed a fine of €1,250. He was also disqualified from driving for four years. On the careless driving conviction Mr Ruth was ordered to pay a fine of €750.
Recognisance was fixed in the event of an appeal.
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