A 40-year-old father of four has been sentenced to eight months in prison after crashing into a lamp post at Glenshane Tourist Services, and fleeing.
CCTV of the incident, which was viewed by service station managers shortly afterwards, showed that a blue Renault Scenic car did the damage.
It was also reported the driver was “seen to be a male wearing a black jacket”, although when police caught up with the defendant he tried to say that his girlfriend had been driving the car.
A suggestion she denied.
The vehicle was later discovered in Dungiven showing damage consistent with the crash near Maghera, and Derry man Patrick Coyle was arrested.
The Cashel Hill Park resident was disqualified from driving at the time of the February 12 incident and was discovered to have a clear bag of drugs, which he tried to conceal from police at Strand Road station, in his mouth.
Magherafelt Magistrates Court heard Coyle later admitted to police that the bag contained cannabis, but denied he was the one driving the car even when he was shown CCTV of the incident.
Coyle was charged with a number of offences stemming from the incident.
They included possession of a class B drug, driving while disqualified, unfit and without insurance, failure to provide a specimen and failure to stop at an accident.
Speaking for Coyle, defence counsel asked Judge White not to send him to prison, outlining how he’s the father of four children, “three of which have difficulties”, and need him as their mother suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.
However, he did admit to the court that Coyle “does have quite a long record”.
Before passing sentence, Judge White asked Coyle to stand, then said: “I take a very serious view of this... You have an atrocious record.”
He then told him “the sentence in this case is custody”.
Coyle was sentenced to a total of eight months in prison, including one month to run concurrently, for possessing cannabis.
He has also been disqualified from driving for years, after which Judge White said he will have to resit his test before getting back behind the wheel.
Some time after the case was heard, Coyle’s representation asked if Judge White could fix bail for appeal, which he set at £500 of the defendant’s own money.
“Given the [probation] reports say he’s a medium risk rather than a high risk,” he explained.