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Fury as UUP man with drink-driving convictions attends road safety workshop

Convicted: Ulster Unionist councillor Derek Hussey
Convicted: Ulster Unionist councillor Derek Hussey

By Suzanne Breen

An Ulster Unionist councillor with three drink driving convictions attended a Department of Justice and Policing Board best practice workshop on road safety.

A delegate at the event contacted the Belfast Telegraph to complain about Councillor Derek Hussey's attendance, which he branded "completely unacceptable".

But the councillor last night defended his presence and said he had "been through the legal system and dealt with".

Mr Hussey, a former MLA who is now a member of Derry City and Strabane District Council, attended in his role as a Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) member.

The workshop was held in The Junction in Dungannon on Tuesday. A delegate said: "I was absolutely stunned to see Derek Hussey there.

"Given his history, he would have been best staying away from the event. This was very poor judgment on his part. He certainly didn't share with others in the workshop his own experience of being convicted for drink driving three times."

The Department of Justice said the appointment of political members to a PCSP was "a matter for local council".

The Policing Board declined to comment on the appropriateness of Mr Hussey's attendance.

A spokeswoman said: "The appointment of political members to PCSPs is a matter for council. The Board has no further comment."

A spokeswoman for Derry and Strabane District Council said the event had been open to all PCSP members.

The council hadn't nominated the UUP man as a delegate but councillors had attended "at their own discretion due to their position on the PCSP", she added. The UUP declined to comment.

Mr Hussey was convicted for drink driving for the third time in 2016. He was given a five year motoring ban at Enniskillen Magistrates' Court and fined £800. His prosecution followed a two vehicle collision on the Drumquin Road in Castlederg the previous year.

He had pleaded guilty to driving with excess alcohol, driving without due care and attention, and failing to report an accident.

He first came before the courts for drink driving in 2004. He was back in the dock again in 2011 after crashing his vehicle when at almost twice the legal limit. He was warned then that if caught drinking driving again he could face prison.

The UUP councillor yesterday said he was sorry if his presence at the road safety event had caused upset.

"I am disappointed that the person who had a problem with me being there didn't tell me that face-to-face," he said.

"I have been through the legal system and dealt with and am perhaps more aware than many of the dangers that I placed myself and others in. I'd like to think it has been a salutary lesson I can share with others."

When asked if he did share his own experience with others at the road safety event, Mr Hussey acknowledged he hadn't.

"Perhaps I should have. I never thought about it. If the matter had arisen I would have shared my story," he said.

Mr Hussey said there were issues around road safety which had to be addressed including "roads engineering, speed, inattention and the availability of police in rural areas".

The UUP councillor said he didn't "deny or attempt to hide past indiscretions". He added: "I am not presently driving. I can alert others to the personal consequences of their actions."

Speaking after his 2016 conviction, Mr Hussey said he was deeply remorseful for what had happened.

He said he realised his actions could have had fatal consequences and he would be prepared to meet the families of those killed by drunk drivers. He was suspended by the UUP but later reinstated.

Mr Hussey told the News Letter he was continuing in politics.

"When I was last prosecuted I topped the poll as someone with two previous convictions. Those who voted for me, they knew my background. I've never allowed any issue to interfere with my public representation and I will continue with my work," he said.

Last week, the UUP man revealed he was battling cancer.

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