Driver comes ‘within an inch’ of prison

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District Judge Mr Paul Copeland has warned young drivers in Rathfriland, that the day is coming when some of them may end up in jail.

The stark warning was issued last Thursday when he told a 19 year old that he had come “within an inch” of 
going to prison.

David McConnell from Moneygore Road, Rathfriland was convicted of dangerous driving. He was sentenced to three months in prison, suspended for two years, fined £500 and banned from the roads for two years.

Mr Copeland said, “I want a message to go out to others who behave in this grossly offensive way, that if they are caught endangering people’s lives in this quiet and respectable town, then they can expect custodial sentences.”

A PPS Prosecutor explained how on Friday 31st January at 9.50pm, police were on mobile patrol at Church Square Rathfriland when they spotted a white Ford Sierra Sapphire 
revving its engine.

The car proceeded around the Square and minutes later officers saw the rear swing out at 45 degrees as it came round a corner heading towards police.

One of the officers got out of the patrol vehicle and stepped into the middle of the road holding a torch in an attempt to stop the white car.

He waved the torch five times to get him to stop, but the car kept coming towards him. The officer then had to step quickly out of the way in order to avoid getting 
hit by the car.

The car briefly stopped a short distance up the road, but then continued on. Police were unable to effect a pursuit on the night.

The following day they called at McConnell’s home and found the same car parked at the property.

He was later interviewed and said it was his father’s car. He denied driving the car in Church Square, Rathfriland on the night in question. Instead he said he had been to Banbridge and had only driven through Rathfriland. He denied the charges.

Barrister Mr Rea said his client profusely apologised adding that the implications of this had been fully explained to him. He stressed Mr Connell was 
“full of regret.”

District Judge Mr Copeland interrupted stating, “This police sergeant had to jump clear of this vehicle in fear of his life. He saw the Sergeant in full uniform. People like him are fully aware of the police presence. I am in no doubt he saw this sergeant and deliberately drove the car at him. He is in big trouble and faces a custodial sentence.”

“This is a prize example of driving which has poisoned the urban life in Rathfriland for some time.”

Mr Rea stressed his client had no previous record, came from a good family background and works up to 92 hours per week.

Mr Rea said his client would now have a strained relationship with his father.

Sentencing McConnell, Judge Copeland said, “This is a local court and it can’t ignore this local issue. I am particularly concerned about this type of offending which all too frequently occurs in Rathfriland.

“This type of wreckless driving alarms the public and that is why the police were there in numbers that night in their attempts to restrain people like you.”

“This type of showing off is infantile, childlike behaviour. The town centre is not a race track and you need to find a way of impressing your peers rather than through high speed 
endangering people.

“This type of swagger through town almosts taunts locals and police. You were detained and lied about where you were. This was outrageous behaviour and will not be tolerated by the community, police or court. You have come within an inch of going to jail. Someone could have been killed and this has to stop.

“You swaggered around the town in your father’s classic car. The day is coming when people like you will end up in jail.”