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Drink driver who crossed border to escape as police gave chase handed 18 month ban

He said he had been drinking and noticed the car was missing and had gone for a walk to find it, and had been on his way home when stopped by police

A Crossmaglen man who failed to stop at a vehicle checkpoint whilst over the limit and crossed the border to escape police has been handed an 18 month disqualification.

Prior to sentencing the 50-year-old, the district judge commented: “This is a case which has all the aggravating features.”

Paul O’Neill, of Loughross Road, had a plea of guilty entered on his behalf to dangerous driving, driving with excess alcohol, failing to stop for police and using a vehicle without insurance at Newry Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.

Prosecution outlined that on April 19, at 1.25am, police were conducting a vehicle checkpoint on the Concession Road in Newry, when they observed a Toyota Corolla which had been coming in their direction reverse and drive off.

Another officer, who was one mile up the road, deployed a stinger but this only made contact with the front passenger side tyre.

The car continued but was pursued by police. It was signalled to stop and did slow down before performing a U-turn and colliding with the bumper of a police vehicle.

Officers continued to follow the car. A second stinger was deployed this time successfully, however, the driver continued on driving on rims and almost lost control.

They then went over a bridge and crossed the border into the Republic of Ireland. A short time later police stopped this defendant walking on the road.

O’Neill made an unsolicited comment to police that he had been the driver. When asked where the vehicle was he is stated it was “safe and out of the way”.

Whilst in custody, an evidential sample of the defendant’s breath was taken and this gave a reading of 76mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath- over twice the limit.

During interview, O’Neill denied being the driver. He confirmed the car had no insurance and claimed that someone else had taken it.

The defendant stated he had been drinking and noticed the car was missing. He had gone for a walk to find the vehicle and had been on his way home when stopped by police.

Defence barrister Kevin O’Hare said: “This is a man of 50 with essentially a clear record. This would appear to be totally out of character.”

He added that the loss of licence would be a “heavy price to pay” for O’Neill.

District Judge Eamon King stated: “This is a case which has all the aggravating features. He was driving with no insurance, he failed to stop at a checkpoint because of this and then was subsequently found to be over the limit.

“He was pursued by the police went back past the checkpoint, led them on a chase and escaped across the border.”

O’Neill was disqualified from driving for 18 months and was ordered to pay a fine of £850, along with the offender’s levy of £15, within 12 weeks.

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