A conviction for drink-driving in 2005 which resulted in the wrong man going to jail for the crime, was quashed by HH Judge Finnegan at Belfast County Court today. The Criminal Cases Review Commission referred the drink driving conviction of William Smith to the County Court in Northern Ireland earlier this year on the basis that it was a case of mistaken identity by the police who had not conducted due diligence when the person responsible was arrested in 2005.
The person who had carried out the offence had given our client’s name to the police when he was arrested in 2005. The police failed to photograph, fingerprint or take DNA from the person they had arrested. These police failings led to the subsequent error in arresting Mr William Smith in 2011 on a warrant in default of payment, an arrest based simply on his name rather than on proper evidence based identification.
A conviction against Mr Smith had been recorded in his absence at Belfast Magistrates Court in June 2011 in relation to a drink driving offence committed by another person in July 2005. A fine of £400 and disqualification from driving for 12 months was imposed.
Mr Smith was arrested on a money warrant on New Year’s Eve 2011 due to non-payment of the fine and was taken directly to prison where he spent six days. At the time of his arrest on the money warrant our client made several attempts to advise police that he was not the person who had been arrested in 2005.
Patricia Coyle of Harte Coyle Collins later applied to the CCRC in March 2015 on his behalf.
Having reviewed the case in detail, the Commission decided to refer Mr Smith’s drink driving conviction for appeal in 2019 because it considered there is a real possibility that the Court would quash the conviction. The referral was based on new evidence that Mr Smith, who has never held a full driving licence, was not in the car stopped by police and was not the person who failed the breathalyzer test in July 2005, and that another identified individual was driving the car at the time.
Patricia Coyle Solicitor for Mr Smith said today;
” Our client is delighted with the Court decision today quashing the wrongful conviction. The Public Prosecution Service did not oppose the appeal or adduce evidence. William Smith was not driving the car stopped by the police in July 2005. Police failings in carrying out simple identification procedures such as photographs, fingerprints and a sample of DNA, resulted in the wrong man going to jail for an offence he did not commit. Our client wishes to extend his thanks to the CCRC and the Court for correcting this wrongful conviction.”
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