Limerick man who was told to 'get later bus' loses challenge against drink driving conviction

By Ann O'Loughlin

A Limerick man described by a judge as "a veteran of the criminal justice system", has failed in his latest legal challenge to his jailing for two months for drunk and dangerous driving.

Mervin White (aged 36), Mallow Street, Limerick, last year lost a challenge to a District Court judge's decision to jail him in his absence for the offence after he failed to turn up in court for the third time.

He appealed and the Court of Appeal also rejected the challenge.

On August 8 last, he was brought to Mountjoy Prison to serve his sentence but his lawyer made an application to the High Court two days later for an inquiry into the lawfulness of his detention under Article 40 of the Constitution. He was released pending the hearing of that inquiry.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan rejected the challenge saying White had not demonstrated any fundamental error in the re-issued warrant jailing him.

He had claimed the re-issued warrant was invalid, failed to show jurisdiction on its face, was unsigned and did not indicate the identity of the author.

Mr Justice Noonan adjourned until next week further orders in the case after noting that Mr White was still on bail.

The two-month sentence was originally imposed on him in December 2014 after he had twice not turned up in the District Court for his case on the charges he previously pleaded guilty to. The judge accepted explanations that his partner was having a baby on the first occasion, and that his sister was seriously ill on the second.

He was warned by the judge to turn up on the next adjourned date but failed to do so because, the court was told, he had missed the bus.

He was jailed in his absence after the court heard he had 35 previous convictions including one for a prior drink driving offence.

He brought his first High Court challenge last year claiming he should have been arrested and brought to court before sentence was imposed.

Mr Justice Max Barrett, who rejected that challenge, said he could have got a later bus because sentencing had been put back to the afternoon to facilitate him.

Mr Justice Barrett also said Mr White was a veteran of the criminal justice system and the reason given for not turning up in court was "almost whimsical".

It was well established law that the the State should not have to engage in "a game of 'catch me if you can'", the judge said.

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