Sixth drink driving offence

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A RATHFRILAND man who has six drink drive convictions has been jailed for nine months after pleading guilty to driving whilst unfit.

Robert Harbinson (40) from School Road, Ballyroney, Rathfriland was also charged with aggravated vehicle taking causing damage, driving whilst disqualified, no insurance, assault on police and resisting police.

District Judge Mr Paul Copeland disqualified him from driving for three years.

The court heard how on 3 December at 3.20pm there was an emergency report of a road traffic accident involving one vehicle at Drumarkin Road, Rathfriland.

Police were told the driver appeared to be drunk and that a Citroen Zara car had crashed and was on its side with the driver’s door blocked.

When officers arrived the driver had got out of the passenger side and they immediately recognised him as a disqualified driver.

Harbinson was unsteady on his feet and there was a strong smell of intoxicating liquor. He became aggressive and struggled, punching one officer on the left arm.

He then headbutted another officer on the arm before being charged with driving whilst unfit and driving whilst disqualified.

He replied, “You’ll never get the f***ing key” before trying to break free. He then stated, “”You f***ing prove I was driving.”

Harbinson was searched and the key was found. A woman then approached officers and said she was Harbinson’s fiancee and admitted the car was hers. However, she said he had taken it without her permission and he wasn’t insured to drive it.

The defendant then said to the officer, “F*** you I’ll be in Scotland soon anyway.”

The court heard the damage to the fence was estimated at £80 and during interview Harbinson made full admission to the charges.

Barrister Mr Justin Byrne said his client had “quite a lengthy record” and it was clear from the pre-sentence report that he struggled with an alcohol addiction.

He also said Harbinson had been referred to the Mental Health Team.

District Judge Mr Paul Copeland said he had concerns that Harbinson continued to consume alcohol and was a “risk and danger to all who have the misfortune of meeting him when he is out and about.”

Mr Copeland also commented on Harbinson’s defiance of driving disqualifications from the court.

On the day in question, explained Mr Byrne, Harbinson was on his way to a friend’s house to drink more alcohol.

“He currently lives with his fiancee and has four children from a previous relationship. He realises his position and wants to move to Scotland to start afresh,” said Mr Byrne.

Handing down sentence, Mr Copeland said that the custody threshold had been passed and Harbinson had to understand that there were consequences to his actions on 3 December.

“This is the sixth time you have been convicted for drink driving and you have multiple convictions for driving whilst disqualified. Your conduct was aggressive by which you abused and assaulted police officers, and you have repeatedly failed to respond to non-custodial sentences. You remain a persistent risk and threat to the public and I feel a custodial sentence is appropriate.”

Harbinson is set to appeal the conviction and appeal bail was granted in the sum of £400. He was also ordered to pay an offender’s levy of £15.