Retired teacher banned for three years for drink driving offence

Ballymena Courthouse. INBT02-213AC
Ballymena Courthouse. INBT02-213AC

A former teacher who crashed and put a car on its roof after he had whiskey at a friend’s house has been told by a judge he should have been the type of person to have heeded warnings about drink driving in the run up to Christmas.

Seamus Gerard McHenry (62), of Glendun Road, Cushendun, appeared at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday and admitted charges in connection with a one-vehicle collision at Glenravel Road, Cargan.

A defence lawyer said because of worry over what had happened “it has certainly not been a Happy Christmas for the defendant. This last number of weeks he has been deeply distressed”.

McHenry pleaded guilty to driving with excess alcohol and failing to stop and remain after a damage-only accident on December 2.

A prosecutor said a vehicle was on its roof after colliding with a traffic island at Cargan and McHenry “made off” but was located nearby by the Fire Service.

He had an alcohol level of 48 microgrammes with the legal limit being 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of breath.

The defendant told police he “felt stunned” by the crash and was attempting to walk home. He said he had “two glasses of whiskey at a friend’s house” a short distance away before driving.

District Judge Liam McNally said the reading seemed “very low” for the consequences of the crash but the prosecutor said the reading was correct.

The prosecutor said McHenry told police he believed a warning light came in on in his car to indicate a door was not closed properly and when he reached to open and close the door the collision happened although he couldn’t remember exactly what occurred.

A defence lawyer said McHenry had previously been a primary school teacher for 34 years but has now retired.

Judge McNally said: “I would have thought he was the type of person who would have heeded the many warnings over Christmas about driving with alcohol”.

The defence lawyer said his client felt he was ok to drive although he “clearly wasn’t”.

Judge McNally said photographs of the aftermath of the crash were “absolutely appalling” and said even if the defendant had been distracted by the door, if he had not been drinking he should have been able to deal with it without crashing.

The judge told McHenry: “You are very fortunate that no one was killed or seriously injured”.

Judge McNally said the defendant had a previous drink driving related conviction within the last 10 years which triggered a three-year driving ban and he also imposed a three-month jail term, suspended for two years.