Suspended sentence for Donegal man caught drink driving twice - judge says strong deterrent needed

The defendant agreed to hand his car keys in at garda station

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Suspended prison sentence handed down for drink driving offences

A district court judge imposed a suspended prison sentence to act as a future deterrent to a man convicted on two counts of drink driving.

Tadhg Gallagher, 69, of Church Road, Killybegs was before Donegal District Court on Wednesday. He pleaded guilty to drink driving at Church Road, Corporation, Killybegs on June 23, 2020 when an alcohol reading of 70mcg per 100ml of breath was recorded. Gallagher also admitted to drink driving with an alcohol reading of 213mg per 100ml of urine at Shore Road, Corporation, Killybegs on September 9, 2020.

The court heard that he had a number of previous convictions, including one for failing or refusing to give a sample of blood or urine in 2017. On that occasion, he had been disqualified from holding a licence for four years but had successfully applied to have the disqualification removed after three years. The first drink driving arrest for which he was before the court on Wednesday occurred three weeks after he got his licence back.

Defence solicitor Diarmaid Barry told the court that his client was a good man who had given much employment in Killybegs over the years. But he was involved in a catastrophic accident 15 years ago which left him with a serious brain injury. Alcohol addiction issues followed, and Gallagher had tried various treatments and support to deal with his addiction.

“There is no badness in him apart from unfortunately that disease,” said Mr Barry. “I believe that were it not for that catastrophic injury he wouldn't be here. He is a good man.”

The solicitor told the court that his client was no longer driving and was trying to sell his Mercedes car. 

Judge Kevin Kilrane said the defendant had taken an undertaking not to drink and drive when his licence was restored. 

“The court trusted you and you went out and did it not once but twice,” said the judge.

Mr Gallagher said he did not remember the undertaking, but he said: “I admit that I am at fault.”

Judge Kilrane said the matter was very serious, but acknowledged that the defendant had difficulties with alcohol

“Other than that I accept what Mr Barry says that you are a reasonable person,” he said. “But I have to record the type of sentence that will deter you from driving.

“You should look out for your health. You should look out for your addiction. That is a matter for yourself. It is a matter for me whether you drive or not.”

The judge imposed suspended prison sentences of three months and a six-year driving ban on each of the counts of drink driving. 

The conditions of the suspended sentence were that the defendant handed the keys of the Mercedes into the garda station and that he did not reoffend in respect of road traffic legislation. 

“I wish you the best of luck in overcoming what is clearly a problem for you,” said the judge. “For a man of your age it is too bad that this has come before the court, but the public must be protected. You have an urge to take alcohol and cruel as it seems, I have to deal with that in a way that will prevent you from driving if you have an urge to drive.”

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