Unconscious at the wheel in middle of road

editorial image

A drink driver who caused a breathalyser to malfunction when he vomited into the unit has received a suspended prison sentence.

Appearing before a sentencing hearing at East Tyrone Magistrate’s Court was 35-year-old Barry John O’Hagan from Upper Cranlome Road in Cabragh.

He had already plead guilty to a single charge of driving with excess alcohol in blood.

The court heard how a report was made to police in the early hours of July 31 last year about an Audi car which was parked facing the wrong way in the middle of Carnteel Road.

The member of the public said that the driver was unconscious at the wheel.

Police attended the scene and found the car partially across the centre white line and was causing an obstruction to motorists coming in both directions.

The defendant, O’Hagan, was in an ambulance nearby and paramedics described finding him in the car.

O’Hagan told the police that he had been drinking vodka and had been driving home alone.

Detecting signs of alcohol, he was instructed to take the roadside test and was arrested when he failed.

He subsequently provided a blood sample after vomiting into the breathalyser and causing it to malfunction. His sample was over two and half times the limit.

“Despite his condition he made admissions to police and ambulance staff,” said Mr Noel Dillon, defending.

“He had been working as a lorry driver for two years and when he told his employer... he lost his job. However, within two weeks he had secured alternative employment.”

Mr Dillon described how O’Hagan had been convicted of drink driving in Spain in a hire car in 2007.

“At least he had the wit to stop driving,” he said of the offence itself.

District Judge John Meehan countered, saying, “This was an outrageous instance of drink driving... an insult to the dead or seriously injured on the road.

“It is difficult to know what more those responsible can do to control this increasing tide of drink drivers.

“There is a hedonistic and self-interested part of the community that profess to having a right to get as drunk as you like... and then get behind the wheel.

“You have had a caution before and you were disqualified for the offence while on holiday.

“Courts must be seen to get more severe. Only a custodial sentence will suffice.

“Nothing less is adequate to mark the gravity of drink driving.”

He then handed down a two month prison sentence which he suspended for two years and disqualified him from driving for two years. He must thereafter sit the enhanced driving test

“You must sharply change your attitude to other road users,” Judge Meehan told the defendant.