Stopped in Banbridge in van stolen from Dromore

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When he was stopped driving a stolen van in Banbridge 36-year-old man said it had been given to him by someone who had owed him money.

Thomas Coulter, Burren Meadow, Newcastle, admitted a series of motoring offences last Thursday at Banbridge Magistrates Court.

He admitted driving while disqualified on June 29 last year, handling stolen goods, namely a van, possession of articles in connection with a fraud, number plates, not having insurance and unlawful possession of a class C drug Tramadol.

Coulter was sentenced to an enhanced combination order of 50 hours community service and one year probation.

The court heard that he was stopped at 11am while driving a van on the Castlewellan Road in Banbridge.

Police noticed that the registration plates were wrong for the vehicle and further inquiries revealed the van had been stolen seven months previously from a residential property in the Dromore area.

Coulter was in possession of Tramadol tablets and he said they belonged to his father and were properly proscribed. He was going to dispose of them.

He claimed that the van had been given to him by a man in lieu of monies owed to him.

Coulter said he did not know the vehicle was stolen but had not taken any steps to confirm any previous ownership of the van.

The defendant was the subject of a number of suspended sentences imposed at Lisburn and Newry courts.

District Judge, Mr Paul Copeland, said Coulter had an appalling record with 70 previous convictions.

After reading a psychologist’s report on the defendant the judge said he had still managed to convince a probation officer he was fit for community service.

A barrister representing Coulter said there was sedentary work available and it would be ongoing.

Judge Copeland said that the defendant had not learned from opportunities given to him in the past.

The barrister said that his client had been supplied with the vehicle but had failed to make the appropriate checks.

He explained that normally Coulter’s partner would take him to his appointments with probation but on this occasion they had a verbal row and she refused to take him so he got in the vehicle.

The barrister added that he got into the van in a temper and had turned back when he was stopped by the police. He had difficulties with alcohol and prescription medication.

Judge Copeland said that looking at the matter ‘in the round’ he felt that the defendant could be doing something worthwhile for the community and he was not going to send him to jail.

But he warned Coulter he had had a ‘very narrow escape’ and if he appeared in court again for not complying with court orders he would face a lengthy period of custody.