Judge expresses his shock at drink driver

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A case where a drunken man got into car and drove 50 yards down a street was described as ‘absolutely shocking’ by the judge last Thursday at Banbridge Magistrates Court.

Stephen Peden (22), whose address was given as Toberhewny Hall, Lurgan, admitted a series of offences which happened on January 1 this year.

For driving while unfit he was fined £100 and banned for two years while a concurrent two year ban and a £200 fine were imposed for failing to provide a specimen.

Peden was also fined £200 for not having insurance, £50 for not having a licence and £150 for taking a car without the consent of the owner. He was ordered to pay a £15 offender’s levy.

The court heard that at 9.49pm police were called to Newry Street in Banbridge after a report of a suspected drunken driver who had left the car with the keys in the ignition. The car had mounted the kerb.

The defendant, who was standing in a shop doorway, was pointed out to them.

Peden refused to provide a sample and denied driving the car or being inside it at any stage. A witness had provided a description of the defendant.

He was interviewed on January 26 and he said that the day after he was released from police custody he took an overdose and could not remember anything about the three days before that.

A barrister representing Peden said his client was in no state to be behind the wheel of a car and was ashamed and embarrassed to be in court.

He explained that the defendant had suffered a ‘triple whammy’ when he lost his job, his girlfriend had broken up with him and he had lost his grandmother in October.

The lawyer added that Peden was completely intoxicated and couldn’t recall how he came into possession of the keys of this vehicle. He went 50 or 60 yards down the street before mounting the kerb.

He said that since this incident his client has been engaging with a mental health team in the Lurgan area and has given up drink because it doesn’t agree with him. This was completely out of character for the defendant.

Deputy District Judge, Mr Liam McNally, said this was an ‘absolutely shocking’ case with the defendant clearly out of his mind with alcohol.

But, he added, he would take into account Peden’s plea at the earliest stage, the fact he had no record and noted his parents had accompanied him to court.

“You were unfit to be on your feet never mind to take control of a vehicle,” the judge told the defendant.