Judge imposes three consecutive sentences of five months each
A man caught trying to unlock and jumpstart another person’s car at a Donegal hotel claimed he thought it had been abandoned.
In relation to two drink-driving charges, the same defendant claimed that on one occasion he crashed because a hare jumped in front of him. On the second occasion, he claimed, he had been trying to get away from people he was drinking with because he was afraid they would give him a kicking.
The judge handed down suspended prison sentences totalling 15 months, as well as a 10-year disqualification from holding a driving licence.
Sean Kelly, 57, of 2 Pinefield Drive, Omagh was before Donegal District Court on Monday.
He pleaded guilty to drink-driving at Dunmuckrim, Ballyshannon on July 10, 2020. The court heard that he had an alcohol reading of 70mcg per 100ml of breath.
He also admitted drink driving at East End, Bundoran on July 31, 2020. The reading on that occasion was 65mcg per 100ml of breath.
Kelly further pleaded guilty to interfering with the mechanism of a stationary vehicle at Harvey’s Point Hotel, Lough Eske, Donegal Town on July 1, 2020.
Superintendent Colm Nevin told the court that the owner of the vehicle - a grey Audi - went to Harvey’s Point to check on it. He saw two men at his car with the bonnet open, and with jump leads connecting it to another car. There was also a locksmith present.
“The owner approached them and asked what they were doing,” said the superintendent. “They said it was their car.”
The owner then produced his keys to show it was his vehicle.
Defence solicitor Rory O’Brien said his client had made a full admission.
“The vehicle had been abandoned for a long period of time,” he said, adding that there had been another party involved on the day.
The solicitor said the probation report on Kelly highlighted issues with addiction and ongoing mental health problems.
Mr O’Brien said his client fished as a hobby and that was why he spent time in Bundoran and Ballyshannon.
Regarding the seriousness of the charges and a number of previous convictions in Northern Ireland, Mr O’Brien said: “I appreciate that his liberty is at risk but I hope that justice may be better served with a suspended sentence.
“He accepts the loss of his licence is inevitable.”
Judge Kevin Kilrane said there were a number of worrying aspects about the defendant.
“Reading the report from the probation officer, the following matters worry me,” he said.
“He interfered with a car which he said was abandoned. It was parked. He had no business interfering with it. He went to some trouble to get a locksmith so he could drive the car away.
“He shows no remorse whatsoever. When asked by the probation officer what he thought of the car owner who came along and apprehended him, he said he didn’t think a lot of him.”
The judge also raised concerns about the fact that the defendant said after an alcohol-related driving incident, that he had consumed six cans of Guinness.
“The guards were on the scene within ten minutes,” said Judge Kilrane. “To say he drank six cans of Guinness in ten minutes is a downright untruth. Again, no remorse.
“The third episode where he was drinking in Bundoran, he says it was bad company. He said they were asking him to give them some of his drink and he was afraid he was going to get a kicking so he got into his car and drove away at high speed.
“His lack of remorse is very worrying.”
Judge Kilrane expressed concern about a claim that the defendant made following a collision.
“When you crashed the car you said that a brown hare jumped out in front of you and you swerved to avoid it,” he said.
“That is not true.
“You said before in a previous incident that a man jumped out in front of you.
“You seem very unfortunate with hares and men jumping in front of you.
“If you want to stay out of Castlerea, tell the truth.”
The defendant apologised to the court, and again claimed that he had believed that the car at Harvey’s Point was abandoned.
When pushed about why he told the probation officer that he didn’t think much of the car owner, Kelly said: “When I said I didn’t think too much of him it was because I thought he was just bluffing.”
The judge also pointed out that the report stated Kelly had not been taking medication for a mental health condition from May 2020 to January 2021.
The defendant said: “It was making me feel very unwell.”
Judge Kilrane said: “Either you have mental health problems or you don’t. If you do, medication is required.”
Mr O’Brien again appealed to the judge not to impose a custodial sentence.
“I accept that the court will have a dim view but I don’t think prison is the answer,” he said.
“There is a difficulty that is obviously there with alcohol. If those issues could be tackled and dealt with he could leave this court and have a better life for himself.”
Judge Kilrane said he would ‘just about’ leave it at a suspended sentence.
“He is dishonest,” said the judge. “ He doesn’t know what the truth is. He knows what he did and he is covering up with these excuses.
“He says the car was abandoned. He says a hare jumped out in front of him; another fabrication.
“The incident in Bundoran where he was supposedly afraid he would get a kicking from his buddies - that was an effort to mislead the probation officer. It doesn’t help and doesn’t impress.”
Judge Kilrane imposed a total of 15 months in prison in the form of five-month consecutive sentences for each of the three charges, as well as a 10-year driving ban.
The sentences were suspended on a two-year bond of €100 on condition that the defendant continued to take his medication and did not reoffend within two years.
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