15 Aug 2022

Beer-drinking man stopped at Covid checkpoint in Offaly was 'collecting his dole'

Man stopped at Covid checkpoint in Offaly told garda he was collecting his dole

Case was dismissed at Tullamore District Court

A MAN who had attended a barbecue was accused of breaching the Covid-19 travel regulations because he had come from Borris-in-Ossory to Tullamore.

However, no penalty was imposed on Mark Lowbridge, with addresses at Main Street, Borris-in-Ossory, Co Laois and 35 Cloncollig, Tullamore, Co Offaly because Judge Catherine Staines accepted he had travelled to Tullamore to collect his dole on the same day.

Garda Brendan McSweeney told Tullamore District Court that at 8.20pm on May 6 last year, when a 5km travel limit was in place, he was operating a Covid-19 checkpoint on the N52 at Clonminch.

An Audi A4 approached and the driver gave his name as Michael Cash and said his address was Main Street, Borris-in-Ossory.

Garda McSweeney said Mr Lowbridge was a passenger in the vehicle and he also gave his address as Main Street, Borris-in-Ossory.

Garda McSweeney added that the defendant, aged 25, was drinking a can of beer at the time.

He said when he asked Mr Lowbridge what his purpose of travel was, the man said he was in Tullamore to collect his social welfare payment.

The garda said he told the man that the post office would not be open at 8.20pm.

The accused also said he had been at a barbecue at his family's house in Cloncollig and the garda's understanding was that he was originally from Cloncollig.

Garda McSweeney estimated the distance between Tullamore and Borris-in-Ossory to be between 40 and 50km.

Donal Farrelly, solicitor for the accused, who was not in court, said Mr Lowbridge had collected his dole earlier in the day and Garda McSweeney agreed that it would have been within the regulations for him to make the journey for that purpose.

Dismissing the prosecution, Judge Staines said that if Mr Lowbridge did have to go to Tullamore to collect his dole, there was nothing in the regulations to say that he had to go back to Borris-in-Ossory straight away.

The sanction for breach of the regulations was penal, added the judge, and she had a slight doubt about the prosecution.

“I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on that,” said Judge Staines. “But I'm not impressed at the fact he was at a family barbecue.”

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