| 12.1°C Belfast

Drink driver who mowed down child on Benone Beach is jailed

A drunken motorist who knocked down a mother and her four-year-old daughter while he drove dangerously and at speed on a crowded beach last summer has been jailed for three and a half years.

Paul John Doherty (31) a construction worker from Buncrana in Co Donegal, pleaded guilty to committing seven offences during which he knocked down Diane Wilkinson and her daughter Abbie on Benone Beach in Co Londonderry on July 21 last year.

Doherty was also disqualified from driving for seven years.

The court was told that just seconds before the impact, Mrs Wilkinson instinctively swept her daughter Abbie up into her arms.

Both mother and daughter were knocked to the sand. Abbie sustained a broken collarbone and a black eye as well as cuts and bruising to her legs.

Mrs Wilkinson was badly bruised and received injuries to her knees and feet.

After he knocked down his victims, Doherty drove his BMW car at speed off the beach. He was chased for eight miles by a police car and during the high-speed pursuit he forced oncoming drivers to swerve out of his way.

A police helicopter was deployed and Doherty's car was found concealed behind a new build house on the Barnailt Road between Limavady and Claudy.

He'd removed the number plates and attempted to hide as police officers arrived at the scene.

Following his arrest Doherty made admissions to two charges of dangerous driving, two charges of drink driving and to charges of failing to stop, failing to remain at scene and failing to report an accident.

Judge Philip Babington said Doherty had over twice the legal alcohol limit for driving in his breath.

He also said Doherty had two previous convictions for dangerous driving, both of them in Buncrana, the first in May 2003 and the second on Christmas Day 2005.

He said like the Benone Beach incident, both involved Doherty carrying out high speed handbrake turns in a crowded area.

Describing Doherty's driving on a crowded beach as appalling, dangerous and outrageous, Judge Babington said the Wilkinson family from Newtownstewart in Co Tyrone had been traumatised by the events.

Speaking after the sentencing, Mrs Wilkinson and her husband Richard said they were glad the case was now finished and the family were trying to get over it.

"I really don't want to talk about Doherty. He has received a sentence which he deserved," she added.

Belfast Telegraph