Alcoholic was driving regularly

editorial image

A 33-year-old man was given a prison sentence last Friday at Craigavon Magistrates Court and his 73-year-old mother was given a suspended sentence for motoring offences.

They were Frances Ann McConnell (73) and James McConnell (33), both of Princes Way, Portadown.

James McConnell was sentenced to two months in prison for driving while disqualified and a concurrent two month term was imposed for not having insurance.

He was also banned from driving for eight months.

For aiding and abetting him to drive while he was disqualified Frances Ann McConnell was sentenced to two months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and banned from driving for six months.

She was fined £200, ordered to pay a £15 offender’s levy and disqualified for six months for permitting him to drive uninsured.

The court heard that on April 25 this year a police patrol in Bridge Street in Portadown checked a car and this showed there was no insurance policy in place.

They saw the car stop in Thomas Street and a woman got out of the front passenger seat and went into a doctor’s practice.

James McConnell was the driver and he had been banned from driving for a year on August 10, 2018.

He admitted that he was a disqualified driver and he did not have insurance.

McConnell told police that he was sorry and that there were a lot of things going on in his personal life.

When interviewed his mother said that she was very ill and needed transport to get her up to her doctor’s appointment.

Barrister David McKeown, representing both defendants, said James McConnell accepted he should not have been driving and the absence of a pre-sentence report in his case made sentencing very difficult.

He added that this was the defendant’s third conviction and he seemed to have developed a problem over the last number of years which was why he missed his second appointment with probation.

Mr McKeown said that Frances McConnell had only one previous conviction which was 18 years ago but not a relevant record.

District Judge, Mrs Bernie Kelly, said an alcoholic was driving this vehicle regularly and she was facilitating it, putting members of the public at risk.

Mrs McKeown said she now knew the seriousness of the offence for herself and her son and she was unlikely to come before the court again.

Judge Kelly said that driving while disqualified was a very serious offence particularly by someone who had been disqualified for driving under the influence which demonstrated he did not care for any road users.

“She was happy to collude with what happened, to agree to that and put other human beings at risk,” she added. “Given her background that shocks me.”

Judge Kelly also said that James McConnell could not refrain from his consumption of alcohol long enough to attend an appointment with probation which gave her no options to immediate custody.

After he was sentenced McConnell sat down beside his mother and when prison staff asked him to come with them he said: “Am I going to prison?”

Judge Kelly replied: “Yes, were you not listening to me?”

Later in the court he was released on his own bail of £250 to appeal against the sentencing.

Conditions of bail include a curfew from 8pm to 6am, a complete alcohol ban and he is not to be in the front seat of any motor vehicle.