A former police officer who worked in traffic branch during his 28-year tenure has denied charges of driving with excess alcohol, driving without due care and attention, failing to stop, failing to remain and failing to report an accident
Denis Bonner, 61, from Old Station Park, Ballinamallard is contesting the five charges which relate to a traffic incident on March 11, 2016.
During the second day of the contest at Fermanagh Magistrates Court last Wednesday, the court heard Bonner state that he had one pint of Guinness before the collision and two pints of vodka and coke after the collision.
Under questioning by his defence barrister Conor O’Kane, Bonner said that he had been at the funeral of an eight-year-old child that morning.
He said had been driving home from The Taphouse when the car he was driving and another car clipped wing mirrors on the Drumsloe Road. Bonner told the court that he did not offer to pay the other driver and the driver “seemed happy enough.”
Bonner said he was home by 6.20pm and his partner poured him a pint glass half filled with vodka and half with coke. He said “it is not unusual” that he would take such a strong drink. He said he had consumed two pint glasses of vodka and coke before police arrived at 6.50pm. “I don’t frequent bars,” Bonner told the court. “I drink at home and I go to bed early.”
Bonner told the court he was “humiliated” to be in police custody with his fellow colleagues and Mr. O’Kane described Bonner’s behaviour during interview as “cheeky”.
Prosecution barrister Lauren Cheshire cross-examined Bonner.
Bonner told Miss Cheshire that he had made a no comment police interview at the instruction of his solicitor. She read from the interview transcript in which the officer asked Bonner if he had been drinking. Bonner replied: “I told you at the house, sure you seen me.” The officer said: “I mean before the incident.” Bonner replied: “I can’t recall.” The officer said: “Why can’t you recall?” Bonner replied: “Because of shock etc, no comment, move on.”
Miss Cheshire put it to Bonner that he had been lying. He replied: “I wasn’t telling a lie. I should have used my rights.”
She asked him: “Do you accept that there’s a difference between ‘no comment’ and ‘I don’t recall’?” Bonner replied: “No I think there’s no difference – do you accept that I’m telling the truth?”
Bonner told the court he had been driving for 10 minutes before the impact occurred. He said: “My side was wider. I had enough room. We were told never alter your course. We both moved too close to the white line and our mirrors touched. Nobody crossed the white line.” Miss Cheshire put it to Bonner: “If neither of the two of you had crossed the white line then your mirrors wouldn’t have touched.” She added: “You did cross the white line.” Bonner replied: “I did not indeed. I was advanced driving. A good driver does not take his eye off the road.”
Miss Cheshire asked Bonner: “In 28 years of service, part of which was in traffic branch, what made you think it was a good idea to sink a pint of vodka and coke after a collision?” He replied: “I would drink vodka regularly. I would be a regular drinker.” She asked: “You can put away a pint in two gulps?” Bonner said: “Yes.”
Asked if he is aware of alcohol back calculation, Bonner said “that’s the first time I seen to done.” Miss Cheshire put it to Bonner that he “was more aware than most about the importance of back calculation” therefore he “needed time to sit back and think of your answers.”
Describing Mrs. Helen Bonner as “a woman of exceptional character,” Mr. O’Kane told the court that Mrs. Bonner’s late father had been Environment Minister for Northern Ireland and had instigated many anti drink-driving campaigns. “That would have been hammered into us quite a bit. I would never have entertained drink driving,” Mrs. Bonner told the court. She said: “We were in the car. I was lying with my eyes closed. Denis was driving in a sedate manner.” She said the first she knew of the incident was when she heard Mr. Bonner say: “We’ve clipped wing mirrors and he’s coming down behind me.”
She said when they got home she went to the garage to pour him a drink. “I know Denis likes a good, strong drink. I poured him quite a strong vodka,” Mrs. Bonner said. “He drank the first one very quickly so I poured him another. Denis is noted for drinking vodka like water, that’s why we drink at home. He would normally have a few strong drinks and then be early to bed,” she said.
Mrs. Bonner disputed a number of lines from the statement she gave to police and said that the officer told her she would be perverting the course of justice if she did not provide a statement. “I was in such a state because I’d never been on that side of the police before. I was fearful and apprehensive, I just wanted him out of the house,” Mrs. Bonner told the court. She later withdrew her statement. She told the court that she was not sure if the vodka bottle she had given to police was the one she had poured Bonner’s drinks from and said she had “never heard of” hip flask defences before.
Under cross examination by Miss Cheshire, Mrs. Bonner confirmed she had attended all legal proceedings with Bonner. Asked if she was ever privy to discussions about “the importance of finding out what was drunk after the incident”, she replied: “I don’t recall.” District Judge Nigel Broderick adjourned the case until March 1 to allow time for legal submissions.