A 19-year-old man from Armoy has narrowly avoided jail after taking police on a high-speed pursuit across North Antrim in September 2020.
On Friday (September 24) at Coleraine Magistrates’ Court, District Judge called it “one of the worst examples of dangerous driving that has ever been open to Coleraine magistrates’ court”.
On September 9, 2020, Police detected a Seat Leon driving on Victoria Street Ballymoney around 8 pm. Police signalled for the vehicle to stop, but it made off at speed going through a red light at the Linenhall/Market Street junction before travelling along to the Portrush Road roundabout and turning right onto the Frosses Road towards Ballymena.
The court heard the vehicle ended up on the Knock Road heading towards Dervock, performing several dangerous manoeuvres at speeds between 100 to 110 mph. Police eventually decided to terminate the pursuit due to the dangerous nature of the defendants driving.
Outlining the case to the court, a Prosecutor said that police turned onto Castlecat Road, where they noticed the vehicle stationary with the defendant standing beside the car. But, when the defendant spotted the police approaching, he made off over a wall followed by police on foot.
The defendant was detained and arrested on several charges, including no insurance, no L plates, unaccompanied L driver, failing to stop for police and dangerous driving.
The court heard police also searched the defendant’s vehicle and found a Grinder with a small amount of cannabis, further charging him with possession of a class b drug.
Appearing via video-link from his solicitor’s office, Connor O’Neill (19) of Hillside Road Armoy was represented by Defence Barrister Mr Michael Smyth. Mr Smyth told the court that the defendant only had the car for four days, panicking when police attempted to pull him over. The court further heard that his client had admitted to the charges before the court when police carried out a notebook interview and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.
In the pre-sentence report before the court, the defendant had told probation that he had ‘no debts and limited outgoings’ with district Judge Peter King reading to the court that the defendant said he ‘pays his mother £20-£40 per week has a cannabis spend of £50 per week’.
Judge King told the court that the defendant was “making it very difficult for him not to send (the defendant) to prison”.
Defence Barrister Mr Smyth told the court of his client’s naivety, later saying: “there is a degree of immaturity in the defendant’s mind”.
Before passing sentence, District Judge Peter King said that the defendant “was paying his drug dealer twice as much as he was paying his mother”.
The defendant was given four months imprisonment – suspended for two years, disqualified from driving for five years, fines totalling £550, a £15 offenders Levi and disposal order for the cannabis and the defendant’s vehicle.
Judge King gave a final warning to the defendant, telling him: “if I see you in a dock in my court in the next two years on driving matters, you’re going to prison for as long as I can send you to prison.”