Angry judge lifts lid on high rate of drink drivers at Dungannon court

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An angry District Judge has branded ‘absolutely scandalous’ the high number of drink drivers hauled before Dungannon Magistrate’s Court.

Judge John Meehan vented his frustration after dealing with several driving with excess alcohol hearings in a row at Wednesday’s court, suggesting that there should be a rethink of how the cases are treated by the courts.

In all ten of the 51 cases listed at the mid-week court involved drink driving charges.

Judge Meehan interrupted a hearing to say: “It is absolutely scandalous that nearly all the first appearances today are related to driving with excess alcohol.”

He pointed out that the public were being warned time and time again in media campaigns of the dangers of drink driving, and that a lot of effort was spent on trying to prevent motorists from harming themselves and others.

“The deluge of cases is simply alarming”, he said, before suggesting that there should be a rethink on how the courts handle the cases.

Last year, a package of new measures to improve road safety was passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The new Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill was passed on 12 January and puts the focus firmly on drink driving and young drivers.

The Bill will see the introduction of tougher drink driving laws, including two new lower drink driving limits, the lowest of which will apply to novice and professional drivers.

It also provides for a graduated penalty scheme where the penalty for an individual drink driving offence reflects the amount of alcohol involved, and gives the police powers to establish roadside checkpoints.