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Man caught driving in Armagh under influence of cocaine was in breach of violent offences order

The district judge said that the custody threshold had been passed in the case, given the defendant's relevant, lengthy record' of 85 previous convictions

Armagh Courthouse

A man caught driving in Armagh whilst under the influence of a mixture of drugs was in breach of a Violent Offences Prevention Order (VOPO).

Armagh Magistrates’ Court, sitting at Newry Courthouse on Tuesday, heard how David Clarke (28), was prohibited from being in a state of intoxication in the company of a female, according to the order.

He appeared via videolink from Maghaberry, charged with driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs, using a vehicle without insurance, driving without a licence and breach of a VOPO.

Prosecution said that on December 24 last year, police received reports of a man entering a Vauxhall while carrying a can of alcohol at Rushmere Shopping Centre in Craigavon.

He was later observed driving along Barrack Street in Armagh, where he swerved hard into oncoming traffic before correcting himself.

Police signalled the vehicle to stop, which it did not do initially, instead travelling a short distance before stopping.

A preliminary breath test was carried out which returned a result of 22 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath – the legal limit in Northern Ireland is 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.

Checks on police systems also showed the defendant did not have a valid driving licence or insurance.

Police considered the alcohol reading, alongside the level of intoxication displayed, and determined the defendant may be under the influence of drugs.

Clarke was arrested and taken to Dungannon custody. Blood taken for analysis was found to contain cocaine and other drugs.

John McAtamney, defending, asked for credit for his client as he had entered a guilty plea at an early opportunity.

He explained that Clarke had borrowed the vehicle from a friend, conceding there was “no dispute” about the results of the forensic test.

He added that the defendant was on remand for a separate case, explaining that from 2021 onwards the majority of his convictions were for breaches of the VOPO.

The reason for this, he argued, was that a condition for the order required he reside at an approved address.

He said that on numerous occasions the defendant was released from Maghaberry and had nowhere to go, rendering him homeless.

District Judge Anne Marshall said that the custody threshold had been passed in the case, given the defendant’s “relevant, lengthy record” of 85 previous convictions.

Across all the charges, Judge Marshall imposed a total sentence of five months in prison and a five-year driving ban.

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