Fears that hundreds of drink drinking prosecutions might be thrown out because of a legal loophole were averted today by a Supreme Court decision. The High Court had found that Garda procedures for taking blood and urine samples were not reliable because the bottles used are not sealed and therefore not tamper proof. But the Supreme Court put a different interpretation on the legislation, saying that the container referred to in the Act is the cardboard container which holds the bottle and this is sealed.

The loophole, which cast a shadow over thousands of drink driving cases, was indentified by solicitor Peter Reilly when he was defending his client Tate Croom Carroll from Dundrum in County Tipperary. It revolved around the definition of the "sealed container" into which a doctor is required to place the blood specimen taken from a person arrested on suspicion of drink drinking.

In the District Court Mr Reilly claimed that the Road Traffic Act had not been complied with because the bottle containing a specimen of Mr Croom Carroll's blood had not been sealed. A case was stated to the High Court which found that a screw cap on the specimen bottle did not amount to a seal. The DPP appealed the case to the Supreme Court and this time counsel for the DPP successfully argued that the relevant container is not the glass bottle but the cardboard container into which the bottle is put and this container is sealed.

The Supreme Court finding for the DPP averts the prospect of hundreds of drink driving cases being thown out. There was some consolation for Mr Croom Carroll however, who was awarded his costs. His case will return to Cashel District Court where Judge Patwell will have to consider another Supreme Court finding that the container in his case was not correctly labelled.