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Are Licensees Responsible for Drink Driving Customers?

Are Licensees Responsible for Drink Driving Customers?

The concept of responsibility of the licensee or indeed pub owner when a customer drink drives has always been an interesting one. Could a member of bar staff, Designated Premises Supervisor or indeed pub owner be held responsible, especially where it had been quite clear that the customer was intending to drive, yet they had nonetheless been served with a significant quantity of alcohol?

Issues of civil liability obviously arise in terms of a duty of care but also criminal responsibility. Could anyone be aiding or abetting the commission of a criminal offence?

This particular decision in Ireland seems to suggest that that would be a step too far. John Connelly of Kinlough County Leitrim drove after being served 6 pints in the Diamond Bar in Tullaghan. It was claimed in the Irish High Court that the owners of the premises, Seamus and Concepta Kelly, owed a duty of care to Connelly and had acted negligently in serving him the drinks knowing that he would drive.

He was involved in an accident and died together with the female driver of another vehicle. A second woman was seriously injured and settled a damages case against his estate for ?275,000. The estate endeavoured to recover some of the money from the owners of the bar claiming the duty of care.

The Judge in the Irish High Court came to the conclusion that ‘the duty of care being suggested could include an obligation on publicans to restrain, assault or even imprison those they believe to be unfit to drive. That would result in publicans committing a criminal act and is not something any Court could contemplate’.

The decision is not directly binding on this jurisdiction and indeed each case would undoubtedly be decided on its own facts but the decision is worthy of note nonetheless.

For more information please contact Graeme Cushion.

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