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Armagh man who has been appearing before judge for 15 years told to ‘move on with life’

Armagh Courthouse

An Armagh man who a judge said started appearing before him 15 years ago needs to “move on with life” as he is handed a community-based order.

Sean Francis Morton, 35, of Banbrook Hill, appeared at the City Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday charged with three counts of taking a vehicle without authority of the owner, three counts of driving with no insurance or licence, two counts of possession of class B drugs, drink driving, four counts of assault on police and one of resisting arrest.

The offences took place on four separate occasions dating between December of last year and April of this year.

Court heard the first incident occurred on December 29, when the defendant was stopped at a police checkpoint on the Moy Road, Armagh, while driving a Vauxhall Insignia.

Officers smelt cannabis and conducted a search of the defendant.

At the roadside, the defendant admitted to having no licence or insurance and taking the vehicle without the owner’s permission.

Morton also handed a small wrap which he said was cannabis to police, and upon searching the vehicle a further four similar wraps were found.

A preliminary breath test was taken, which gave a reading of 91mg per 100mls of breath, however, in custody a lower reading of 12mg was obtained.

The next offence took place on February 24, when the defendant’s partner contacted the police to say that he had taken the same vehicle again.

When Morton was arrested, another small quantity of cannabis was found on his person, and a breath test which was conducted gave a reading of 73mg per 100mls of breath.

In custody he gave a full admission but denied taking alcohol, telling police that he was parking the car, not driving it.

The next offence was on March 17. The prosecution stated this was a similar to the previous, at 7pm the defendant’s partner reported to police that her car had been taken.

It was heard that Morton handed himself into a police station the next day.

The final offence took place on April 21, when police were called to a domestic at the defendant’s partner’s address by Morton himself.

When officers arrived he began to become aggressive and told them to leave.

The two parties were separated by police with Morton being sent upstairs; officers noted that the defendant’s t-shirt was torn and there were three young children present.

Court then heard that Morton then came downstairs, pushing two officers as he did so, and began, as the police stated, “to lose the plot”.

Morten started headbutting the wall and a constable’s hand that was against the wall. He refused to calm down and resisted police attempts to restrain him.

When finally restrained he thrashed and spat at officers.

It was heard that only when the defendant was handcuffed and had leg restraints put on that he calmed down.

District Judge Paul Copeland told court Morton “started appearing before me 15 years ago”, adding that he had 70 convictions.

“This man belongs behind bars” he continued.

Defence counsel said he had spent much of his time behind bars, and was in prison as recently as April of last year.

They stated that the defendant goes through “sporadic periods of criminality” and last year had “paid a very heavy price”.

It was suggested by the defence that a community order would best deal with the issues, adding that Morton knew if he “failed in any regard it would be immediate custody”.

“He is not very good at keeping to these orders,” Judge Copeland commented.

Defence counsel insisted the defendant’s partner was a good influence on him and on the night of the domestic she had given him an ultimatum.

That, the court heard, was the reason he contacted police, and whilst under the influence, was confused over their attitude towards them.

The judge told Morton he had not learned anything in 15 years, quipping, “you could barely grow a beard then”.

He went on to say “sometimes sorry is not enough”, adding he had calculated an appropriate sentence in excess of 12 months in custody.

Morton was warned by the judge that “there comes a time when you have to draw a line on your future, it’s in your hands”.

Court heard that probation felt there was hope for the defendant, with Judge Copeland telling him that he “should not throw it back in the court’s face”.

The judge finished by saying “you are not the callow youth being the hard man anymore, life is moving on and so should you”.

Morton was handed a two-year combination order during which he must complete 50 hours of community service and attend any programmes probation deems necessary.

For the driving offences, the defendant was also handed a three-year disqualification.

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