Commonwealth Games swimmer Hill banned for using phone at wheel
A teenage swimmer who recently returned from the Commonwealth Games in Australia was handed a two-week driving ban yesterday after being convicted of using her mobile phone while driving.
At Antrim Magistrates Court, District Judge Nigel Broderick said it was clear that 18-year-old Danielle Hill is a "talented swimmer...but there should be a deterrent element to anyone who uses a mobile phone" when driving.
As well as the two-week driving ban Hill, from Beverly Avenue in Newtownabbey, was fined £100 with a £15 offender levy.
The court heard evidence from a police constable that he was in the passenger seat of a liveried patrol car driving along the M2 motorway on July 17 last year when he spotted a young female R driver driving a Ford Focus on the slip road of the south bound motorway.
He told the court that observing her for "three to four seconds", she was "staring intently" at her phone which was in her right hand, her thumb moving across the screen "as though texting". "She didn't move her head from that position during that time," said the officer, adding that at 11.50am, it was a clear day with nothing to obstruct his view. Under cross examination from Hill's defence solicitor, the officer conceded he had not checked the teenager's phone but maintained he had seen her thumb moving across the screen.
The schoolgirl, deputy head girl at Belfast Girls' Model, gave evidence on her own behalf and claimed she had not been texting but rather had been passing her mobile phone to her friend in the front passenger seat.
She told the court they were on their way to pick up another friend on their way to the beach so the front seat passenger was going to use her mobile to say they were on their way.
Prosecuting barrister Lauren Cheshire put it to Hill how, if she had been constantly looking ahead as she joined the motorway, she had not spotted the police car and the schoolgirl agreed she had not seen it. In convicting the teenager of using her mobile phone while driving, Judge Broderick asked why the police would have pulled her over if she had not been using it, commenting that he was "more impressed" with the evidence of the officer.
The defence solicitor said the international swimmer has impending Ulster and Irish Championships, trains seven days a week and is also a coach herself so relies heavily on her car.
Imposing the two-week ban and fine, Judge Broderick said the fact she was on her phone on the motorway was an aggravating factor.