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Northern Ireland writer over drink-drive limit ‘sat in car to smoke pipe’

By Staff Reporter

A playwright and author from the Glens of Antrim who has been banned from the road for being over the drink limit while in charge of a vehicle said he only went into the car to smoke a pipe.

James Justin Skivington (73), of Agolagh Heights, Cushendun, was detected at Mill Street in nearby Cushendall in the early hours of New Year's Day.

The writer, who has penned a number of books and plays, including a play about Roger Casement called 'An Incorrigible Irishman,' appeared at Ballymena Magistrates Court yesterday.

He pleaded guilty to being in charge of a motor vehicle after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in his breath exceeded the prescribed limit.

He had a reading of 54 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, with the legal limit being 35 per 100.

A prosecutor said at 2.05am on Sunday, January 1 this year police saw the defendant approach a vehicle and get in.

The engine was running and when officers spoke to him they could smell drink. The prosecutor said the defendant admitted he had taken beer and wine.

Defence barrister Neil Moore said that while a guilty plea was entered, the issue was whether his client, a writer, was likely to drive.

He said the defendant has been driving for 50 years, with no criminal convictions.

Mr Moore said his client had been out attending New Year "festivities" in Mill Street and after walking an elderly friend to her home nearby he was staying in Cushendall that night and had gone to "smoke his pipe in the car".

Mr Moore said it was accepted the key was in the ignition, to put the window down to let out the smoke.

District Judge Peter King said the engine was running and it was not just a case of the electrics being used to open the window.

The judge said drink had clearly been taken and the defendant was in the driver's seat with the engine running.

Had the defendant not been interrupted by police, the judge said, he would have been facing an allegation of drink driving.

He banned the defendant from driving for six months and fined him £20 0.

Bail of £250 was fixed for appeal and the defendant is allowed to drive in the meantime.

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