Four police cars in ‘hot pursuit’ through town

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After he took his ex-girlfriend’s car a drunken driver was chased through Banbridge in ‘hot pursuit’ by four police vehicles, the local court heard last Thursday.

Lee Carl Stephens (33), Gough Avenue, Armagh, had pleaded guilty at an earlier court to a series of motoring offences.

Sentencing was adjourned until last week so that a pre-sentence report could be obtained.

He admitted dangerous driving at Ballymoney Hill, Banbridge, on December 11 last year, aggravated taking a vehicle without the consent of the owner, failing to stop, driving with excess alcohol at Belleville Drive, Banbridge, failing to provide a sample and not having insurance.

Stephens was sentenced to 240 hours community service and banned from driving for a total of 18 months.

A public prosecutor said that on December 11 last year Stephens wanted to speak to his former girlfriend who noticed he had alcohol taken and phoned the police.

The car was seen at a petrol station on Dromore Street but the defendant refused to speak to police and drove past officers.

He travelled at 50mph through the town centre, slowing down and speeding up, and was followed by four police vehicles.

At Ballymoney Hill he mounted a kerb, causing damage to the car, before driving past police and back to the home address of the owner.

Stephens refused to provide a sample of breath and in custody he admitted his judgement had been impaired by alcohol.

An evidential test gave a reading of 64.

He accepted he would not have taken the car if he had not been drunk and agreed his driving was poor and that he should have stopped but he simply panicked. It was a ‘high degree of stupidity’ on his part.

A barrister representing Stephens said his relationship with his partner had broken down the previous day.

He explained that the defendant had taken alcohol before getting a taxi from Armagh to Banbridge to return the car keys

The barrister added that when she did want to speak to him Stephens panicked in his drunken state and made the decision to take the car. He now realises the stupidity of this course of action.

District Judge Eamonn King said this was ‘a catalogue of errors’ as far as the defendant was concerned.

He said his record was of some vintage and he would treat him as someone making his first court appearance.

Judge King said that when the police saw Stephens instead of stopping he ‘put the boot down’ and there was a ‘hot pursuit’ involving four police cars.

Thankfully there was no serious damage to any road use or to the police, he added.

The judge said it was ‘serious motoring matter’ but given the defendant’s record and his plea of guilty it would not attract a custodial sentence.