Drunk driver drove through red light in Cookstown

A drunk driver who was spotted driving through a red light in Cookstown town centre, has been disqualified from driving for three years.

Monday, 1st March 2021, 4:00 pm

Forty-one-year-old Gareth Michael O’Neill from Station Road, Magherafelt, was also placed on probation for 18 months and ordered to carry out 80 hours of community service.

District Judge Michael Ranaghan imposed fines totalling £375 with a £15 offender levy on charges of driving while disqualified, driving while having consumed excess alcohol, having no insurance and breaching a traffic signal.

Mr Ranaghan warned O’Neill at East Tyrone Magistrates Court, sitting in Dungannon, on Friday, that if he breached the combination order he would be brought back to court and could receive a custodial sentence.

Court report

Prosecuting counsel told the court that on December 12 last year police observed a car driving through the red lights at Orritor Street and performing a U-turn.

She said police signalled for the driver to stop and on speaking to the defendant detected a smell of intoxicating liquor.

Counsel said there were beer cans in the pocket of the driver’s seat, and O’Neill later provided an evidential specimen which showed an alcohol reading of 102 mgs in breath.

A defence lawyer said O’Neill was disqualified for 18 months on October 21 last year at Magherafelt Magistrates Court for a similar offence.

He said the defendant has mental health issues and had been discharged from Holywell Hospital two weeks prior to these offences.

The lawyer said he had met the case in the right way and entered a plea.

He explained the defendant and his wife had split up and he was struggling with this at the time and turned to drink.

O’Neill made the decision to drive and this is something he “hugely regrets”, the lawyer continued.

He said the defendant had worked as a lorry driver and because he has been working 10 years with the same employer, he was kept on to work as a labourer.

The lawyer suggested that the court may consider a probation order as means of dealing with the case.

The judge said the aggravating factors were he was out driving within a short time after being disqualified and with “a very high reading”. However, Mr Ranaghan said it was not a case for immediate custody and he would dispose of it with a combination order.

He remarked that working with probation would provide the defendant with ways of dealing “with the demons in his life”.

“Breaching of the order will result in you being brought back before the court and you could face a custodial sentence,” he added.

The defendant was given 26 weeks to pay the fines.

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