Belfast Telegraph

Aftermath of booze-fuelled van crash was like scene from a war film: judge

By Nevin Farrell

The aftermath of a crash in which a Co Antrim man who was more than three times the drink-drive limit struck a house was "like a scene from a war film," a court was told yesterday.

District Judge Peter King made the comments at Ballymena Magistrates' Court, where defendant Colin David Johnston (44) was given a four-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, and banned from the roads for five years.

The former joiner, from Ashvale Park in Islandmagee, ploughed into a wall and house at Ballystrudder Road at 6.20pm on August 20.

The crash, in which he was driving a friend's van, caused substantial damage.

Children had been present in the house that was damaged the day before the smash.

A prosecutor said Johnston was found to have had an alcohol level of 123mg. The legal limit is 35mg.

A defence lawyer accepted her client could have been standing in the dock in "much more grave circumstances".

She said Johnston was insured to drive the van which belonged to a friend, and confirmed the insurance company had compensated the householder.

She added the defendant was a sole carer for his mother and had been drinking a "very considerable amount" of alcohol at a friend's house on the day of the accident.

However, he then received a call from his mothers saying she had fallen. He was going to her aid when he crashed.

The lawyer told the court Johnston was left "terrorised" by the crash and had vowed never to drive again.

Judge King, who was shown a video of the crash aftermath, said: "Quite frankly, it looks like a scene from a war film."

He told the court the injury that could have been caused if children had been present "makes me shudder".

Judge King described the alcohol level as "completely unacceptable" and told Johnston he could count himself extremely fortunate no one was hurt.

At an earlier hearing, Judge King said the incident "could be taken straight from a government information advert about the dangers of drink driving".

At yesterday's court, he told Johnston to stay away from vehicles and alcohol.

The defendant previously pleaded guilty to charges of driving without due care and attention and failing to provide a specimen of breath.

A charge of driving while unfit was withdrawn.

Belfast Telegraph

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