Belfast Telegraph

Belfast man stopped for no insurance on the run for 13 months

By John Cassidy

A Belfast man stopped by police for no insurance was found to be an on-the-run prisoner with 299 previous convictions, a court heard.

James Daniel Carlin had been allowed out on home leave from Maghaberry Prison in February 2015 while serving a 21-month sentence for burglary, theft of a vehicle, driving while disqualified, having no insurance and receiving stolen goods.

The Prison Service had circulated details of the 37-year-old, of John Street in the city centre.

Belfast Crown Court heard yesterday that it wasn't until 13 months later that Carlin was eventually tracked down by police on patrol.

Prosecuting lawyer Stephen McCourt told Judge Gordon Kerr QC: "On March 21, 2016 at 3.50pm, police stopped a car for no insurance.

"The driver of the car, who is this defendant, gave false details to police. He gave police the details of another person and invited police to go that address where he would verify the insurance details.

"However, en route he admitted that he was Mr Carlin."

Mr McCourt said that Carlin was then arrested and police conducted checks on him.

"It was discovered that he had absconded from Maghaberry Prison while on home leave and had absconded for a period of 13 months."

The judge heard that Carlin had 299 previous convictions, 55 of which were for driving while disqualified.

Defence barrister Ian Turkington told the court that there had been a "truly remarkable transformation" in Carlin since he was arrested for being unlawfully at large.

He said Carlin's licence was not revoked even though he was unlawfully at large, and his licence remains outstanding until June 24, 2018.

The lawyer told Judge Kerr that Carlin had engaged fully with the Probation Service while on licence, who had now assessed him, even with his 299 previous convictions, as being a "low risk of reoffending".

"That is a truly remarkable assessment by the expert author of this report," he said.

Mr Turkington said Carlin would be suitable for a period of supervised probation as opposed to a further period of imprisonment.

Judge Kerr noted the contents of the probation report but added: "I am not satisfied about his future behaviour.

"The proper way to deal with this case is to defer sentence for six months."

Carlin was released on continuing bail.

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