Banned motorist is given ‘very last chance’ by District Judge

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A District Judge has warned a disqualified driver that he will go to prison if he is caught behind the wheel during the next three years.

Before Magherafelt Magistrates Court was Stephen Gerard Keenan (54), of Orchard Close, Portglenone, who admitted driving while disqualified and without insurance, and having no vehicle test certificate.

He was given a six-month jail sentence, suspended for three years, and banned from driving for three years.

Suspending two breaches of suspended sentences, Judge Oonagh Mullan told Keenan that she was giving him his “very last chance.”

She imposed fines totalling £515 and a community service order for 100 hours.

Judge Mullan warned him to work with the Probation Service and any programmes they recommended to prevent re-offending.

She remarked that he had been more or less driving on the roads without insurance since 1993 and was a risk to other road users.

“Why do you keep doing this?” she asked defendant. “The rest of us have insurance and you just cannot just get into a car knowing you are not insured and drive.”

The court heard the offences arose out of an incident at Orchard Way, Portglenone, on March 30 this year.

Defence barrister Michael Forde said the defendant was a joiner and a hard working man up until he suffered a stroke and lost the power in his right hand impeding him from continuing to work. He explained that on this occasion he had driven about half-a-mile to collect his wife from her place of work.

Mr Forde claimed police in the locality would keep an eye out for him because of his record.

Continuing, he said the defendant knows that from today he will not be able to get behind the wheel for a very long time.

Pleading for leniency, Mr Forde asked the court to leave “something hanging over his head for a period of time”.

“He is clearly in the last chance salon,” went on Mr Forde, stressing that a community-based disposal would be better than sending him to prison.

Judge Mullan interjected that defendant had been in the “last chance saloon” a long time ago.

But Mr Forde argued that Keenan could benefit from intensive courses provided by probation rather than going to jail and coming back out again and getting behind the wheel. He said defendant has “nowhere else to go” and if he does re-offend he knows he faces a period of imprisonment.

“This is a man who has worked hard in the past and was forced to give it up for health difficulties,” he said. “I would plead with the court to impose a community based order which may be of benefit in preventing re-offending.”