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Armagh man convicted of driving whilst unfit due to cannabis in system handed 12 month ban

Two officers had been on patrol in the St Brigid's Hill area of the city when they observed two males parked up in a lay-by smoking

An Armagh man who was convicted of driving whilst unfit due to cannabis in his system has been handed a 12 month disqualification.

The 23-year-old’s barrister had argued in court that the cannabis had not necessarily caused his client to drive in the manner he did.

Ryan Gamble, of Drumbreda Gardens, was charged with possession of Class B and driving whilst unfit at the city’s Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.

Defence barrister Seamus Lannon told court that the unfit charge was contested but that adjudication would be made on submission with no witnesses required.

Through Deputy District Judge Philip Mateer’s reading of the statements from two officers, it was heard that the incident occurred on August 8, 2019.

Two officers had been on patrol of St Brigid’s Hill, Armagh, when they observed two males parked up in a lay-by smoking.

Upon approach by police the vehicle moved off. The officers followed and observed as the car swerved over the central white line.

At one point, it was observed that the driver had his head down towards the central console, as if looking for something, and did not have his eyes on the road.

Police stopped the car on Drumcairn Manor. The driver was identified as the defendant, it was noted that his eyes were glazed and a strong smell of cannabis was detected.

Gamble had to be shouted at to pull the handbrake and when he spoke his speech was slow and slurred.

One of the officers located and seized a quantity of cannabis. The defendant accepted ownership confirming it as cannabis and stating he had purchased it a week before.

Prosecution also pointed to a forensic report on Gamble’s blood which confirmed the presence of THC.

However, Deputy District Judge Mateer noted the author stated that it could not be ascertained if the defendant had been feeling the effects of the substance at the time.

Mr Lannon stated that unlike with drink driving “levels” had not been established for driving whilst under the influence of drugs and submitted this was a case of careless driving.

He commented that one officer stated that he could see Gamble looking back at him.

The barrister said: “The fact cannabis was in his system is not necessary cause for affect.

“We would submit the nexus between cause and affect is not there.”

Deputy District Judge Mateer stated that he believed there was a “prima facie case” after considering the evidence.

Gamble was disqualified from driving for 12 months and was ordered to pay a fine of £500, along with the offender’s levy of £15, within 26 weeks.

The defendant was certified for the relevant course which would see his ban reduced to one of nine months upon completion.

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