Tandragee drink driver keeps licence

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A Tandragee man who collided with a lamppost and traffic bollard at an Armagh junction, and pleaded guilty to drink driving, has escaped losing his licence.

Stephen Hutchinson of Castle Garden Factory, The Square, admitted being in charge of a vehicle with excess alcohol in his blood when he appeared before Armagh Magistrates Court last Tuesday. The court heard he had drunk some alcohol after a “significant fall” earlier that day.

The 55-year-old had been due to contest a charge of driving with excess alcohol in blood but prosecutors agreed to a lesser offence.

Hutchinson came to the attention of police at 7.55pm on February 20 this year following reports of a traffic collision at Newry Road, Armagh.

The vehicle the defendant had been driving was a small lorry and, as a result of the incident, minor damage was caused to a car.

Both drivers agreed to travel a short distance to the car driver’s home to exchange details, which Hutchinson did, the court heard. A representative for the PPS said the damage included a cracked windscreen, bumper and light.

On arrival, police spoke to the defendant who confirmed he had consumed whiskey from a hip flask at around 4pm. A breath test was carried out on Hutchinson which resulted in a fail and he made no reply under caution. He was taken to Lurgan custody suite where his reading was 0.48 and over the legal limit.

A defence solicitor said Hutchinson had been fully co-operative with police at all times throughout the course of their enquiries. “It’s apparent from the papers, he assisted in all interviews.”

Explaining that Hutchinson had suffered a “significant fall” earlier that day, his solicitor said his client had been given some alcohol in the after event. “He has been driving for the biggest part of his life and this is his first occasion in any court - he doesn’t even have a single penalty point.

“There was minor damage caused which he has already remedied,” his defence added.

Judge Paul Copeland said, “It’s significant that the prosecution have revisted this charge.” He told Hutchinson he would take into account his full co-operation with police and those he encountered on his short journey home, as well as his clear driving record.

“I’m satisfied his conduct on the day in question was a momentary lapse of judgement and concentration on his part, on an otherwise balanced driver,” said the judge.

Hutchinson was fined £300 and given 10 penalty points plus a £15 offenders’ levy.