Judge Dismisses Case Against Man Accused Of Breaking 5km Restriction

The accused said he left his 5km to collect his dole and attend a family barbeque.

A passenger who was drinking beer in a car stopped at a Covid checkpoint in Tullamore said he had travelled from Laois to collect his dole and attend a family barbecue.

Mark Lowbridge, a 25-year-old who told a garda his address was Main Street, Borris-in-Ossory, Co Laois but who also had an address at 35 Cloncollig, Tullamore, Co Offaly, was prosecuted for breaching the Covid-19 travel regulations.

However, Judge Catherine Staines dismissed the case because Mr Lowbridge was permitted to make the journey to collect social welfare.

Garda Brendan McSweeney told Tullamore District Court that at 8.20pm on May 6 last year, when a 5km limit for non-essential 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 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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