A MOTORIST who claimed he had been asked to sing the Polish national anthem at a garda checkpoint was banned from driving for four years at Carlow District Court last week.
Dawid Melecki, Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow had pleaded not guilty to driving under the influence of cannabis at Shillelagh Road, Tullow on 6 November 2015.
Mr Melecki claimed he had sung his country’s national anthem after being asked to do so by gardaí. He also claimed he had later helped gardaí with translating for another individual at Carlow Garda Station.
Mr Melecki’s defence had argued that his prosecution was flawed. It was suggested by solicitor John O’Sullivan that while he was considered impaired at the roadside, he was deemed fit to assist gardaí later on.
However, Inspector Audrey Dormer pointed out the defendant was assisted by a translator in court and Mr Melecki admitted his English was “quite basic”. The defendant was subsequently fined €750 and banned from driving for four years.
At the outset of the case, Garda Nigel Conway gave evidence of carrying out a crime checkpoint as part of Operation Anvil on the Shillelagh Road along with two plain clothed officers on the morning of 6 November.
The defendant’s vehicle was stopped at the checkpoint and Garda Conway recalled a “strong smell of cannabis” from the car and traces of resin on the gear stick and ashtray.
Mr Melecki was asked to leave the vehicle and take a few steps.
Garda Conway said the defendant was unsteady on his feet and was “swaying side to side”.
“He seemed to be under the influence of an intoxicant,” said Garda Conway. “He was swaying side to side; there was something amiss with Mr Melecki.”
Garda Conway said the defendant admitted he had had been smoking cannabis on the day in question.
The defendant was arrested and later provided a urine test, which revealed cannabis.
In cross-examination, defending solicitor John O’Sullivan asked the garda had he asked Mr Melecki to sing the Polish national anthem.
Mr O’Sullivan said he had been instructed to ask this question by his client.
“Quite clearly, Judge, no,” replied Garda Conway.
Mr Melecki also claimed to have assisted gardaí later with translating for another individual.
However, the member in charge of the station at the time Garda Esmay Mannix said she had no recollection of this and said she would have made a note of it in the custody record.
It was later highlighted by Inspector Audrey Dormer that Mr Malecki was relying on a translator in court.
Mr Malecki admitted in the witness stand that he had “quiet basic” English but maintained he had helped. The defendant added that he was nervous when stopped by the gardaí.
“I was asked what my nationality was,” he said. “Then I was asked to sing my anthem … I said a few words, then I was asked to sign louder, which I did. I was confused by the situation.”
Mr Melecki said he had admitted smoking cannabis a few days previously.
During cross-examination by Insp Dormer, the defendant said he was no longer smoking cannabis and had not taken anything before attending court.
In final arguments, defending solicitor John O’Sullivan urged the judge to give his client the benefit of the doubt.
“I do not think he would remember something that did not happen,” he said.
However, Judge Geraldine Carthy was satisfied to convict and ruled as outlined.
Recognisances were fixed in the event of an appeal.