Belfast Telegraph

Dad of victim voices dismay as 9,000 caught drink driving in Northern Ireland in three years

Peter Dolan
Peter Dolan
Peter Dolan's 18-year-old son Enda who was killed by a drink-driver in 2014
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

Eight people are caught drink or drug driving every day on Northern Ireland's roads.

More than 9,000 people were detected over the legal limit in the last three years.

One offender had a breath test reading of 181 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath - over five times the legal limit (35mg/100ml).

The youngest person caught over the limit was just 14 years old, even though the legal age to drive in Northern Ireland is 17. The oldest was 87.

Men are much more likely to be caught drink or drug driving - around four-fifths (80%) of those detected in each of the three years were male.

Peter Dolan, whose son Enda (18) was knocked down and killed by a drunk driver in Belfast in 2014, said he was shocked at the figures.

He believes people continue to drive under the influence due to the "lack of a deterrent".

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PSNI inspector Rosie Leech said the police remains focused on tackling drink driving.

Figures obtained by this newspaper show:

  • 9,147 people were detected drink or drug driving in Northern Ireland in the three years to April 2019 - 3,079 in 2016/17, 3,138 in 2017/18 and 2,930 in 2018/19;
  • The highest readings in each year were 168mg/100ml (Antrim and Newtownabbey 2016/17), 176mg/100ml (Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon 2017/18) and 181mg/100ml (Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon 2018/19);
  • Ages of the youngest and oldest drink/drug drivers were 14 and 82 in 2016/17, 15 and 81 in 2017/18 and 15 and 87 in 2018/19;
  • Some 521 females and 2,558 males detected in 2016/17, 524 females, 2,613 males in 2017/18, and 562 females and 2,368 males in 2018/19;
  • Of those caught drink/drug driving in the three years, six were police officers and six were police staff.

Enda Dolan was killed by drunk driver David Stewart during his first term studying architecture at Queen's University.

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The number of drink/drug related offences by policing district in Northern Ireland

Stewart had taken drugs and up to 13 drinks - including six pints of beer and four Jagerbombs - before getting behind the wheel in October 2014.

He was originally sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison and the same amount of time on licence, but this was increased on appeal to four-and-a-half years behind bars and the same period on licence.

Since his son's death, Mr Dolan has campaigned for the introduction of tougher sentences for those who cause death by dangerous driving.

Mr Dolan believes this is the only way to cut the rates of drink and drug driving.

He said: "At the minute the maximum sentence for somebody convicted of death by dangerous driving is 14 years.

"The courts haven't used the 14 years as a maximum.

"In our case when our son Enda was killed, it was horrific. The individual was convicted for death by dangerous driving and only served four-and-a-half years in prison - he was three-and-a-half times over the limit.

"To me, that's hard to take.

"I have been calling and campaigning for this past number of years to get the sentence increased to life."

Mr Dolan said his family was encouraged to see the Department of Justice launch a public consultation on sentencing reviews in October.

"At the minute there is a public consultation document out and it's open to comments from the public in relation to sentencing regarding death by dangerous driving," he explained.

"I think there is no deterrent better.

"People seem to think they're above the law.

"They think they can get in their car and drive while they have some alcohol in their system.

"The consequences are horrendous on their own lives and on the lives of other people if a tragedy happens."

The PSNI is currently enforcing an anti-drug and drink-drive campaign targeting motorists over Christmas.

On Friday officers revealed that 200 people were arrested on suspicion of drink and drug driving in just two weeks - an increase of 44 on the same time last year.

Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, PSNI inspector Rosie Leech warns of the serious consequences of drink or drug driving.

"It is disappointing that despite our repeated and well publicised warnings a minority of people continue to disregard the safety of themselves and others by taking the shameful and incredibly dangerous risk of driving after drinking or taking drugs," she said.

"Our message is very simple. Never, ever drink and drive. Just one drink can impair decision-making. Just one drink can cause a collision.

"Just one drink could kill."

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