Belfast Telegraph

Row erupts after serial criminal is spared jail

A judge’s decision not to jail a drink-driver with 54 previous motoring convictions has been described as “shocking”.

Judge Piers Grant told Brendan O'Neill, from Glenshane Road, Claudy, that he would “take a chance” and not impose a custodial sentence, despite O'Neill admitting to driving while disqualified and without insurance, stealing a car and driving with excess alcohol.

O'Neill (33), who has 83 previous convictions, 54 of them relating to driving offences, was caught by police in Faughanview Park in the village in May.

However Londonderry woman Aileen Tester, whose brother Robert Bradley (20) and his friend Alex Veeder (21), were killed by a drink-driver after a night out at Nottingham University, has hit out at the judge's ruling.

Mrs Tester, who now devotes much of her time to helping other victims of drink-drivers, said the sentence handed down by Judge Grant trivialises the nature of the crimes O'Neill committed.

She said: “It is truly incredible and is just plain shocking that someone who clearly has no regard for life or the law can walk out of the court after committing offences like these.

“This just makes no sense. This man was caught driving when he was already disqualified so banning him for five years will mean nothing to him — and he was drunk. “The judge said he would take a chance and not jail him, but what if he does do this again and kills some innocent person like my brother the next time. There are no second chances for someone hit by a car travelling at speed.

“There is an advertising campaign running on television which says that if you are caught driving drunk or dangerously you will go to jail, but the judge in this case failed to do that and that just makes you wonder why.

“The logic used here does not reflect the pain and heartache felt by the families of people who have been killed by drunk drivers.

“The ad campaign that runs here has been criticised in the past for being too graphic, but the truth is the reality is much worse and I have spoken to other people who have lost loved-ones to drunk drivers and they have said they wished they had taken pictures of the broken bodies of their loved-ones to show the damage that can be done by someone getting behind the wheel of a car when they are drunk.”

In court Judge Grant told O'Neill he would reluctantly take a chance by not sending him to jail. Instead he imposed an 18-month jail sentence, suspended for three years.

He also disqualified O'Neill from driving for five years.

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