Belfast Telegraph

Man cleared of road death given ban for drink-driving

Bernie McNicholl
Bernie McNicholl
Jonathan Ferguson

By Staff Reporter

A man cleared of manslaughter in a landmark trial which alleged his presence as a pedestrian on a rural Co Tyrone road caused a fatal collision has been disqualified for drink-driving.

Jonathan William Thomas Ferguson (31) was detected in Cookstown at almost twice the legal alcohol limit and with a flat tyre.

It came five months after he was cleared of causing the death of Bernie McNicholl.

In the manslaughter trial, the court heard Mrs McNicholl was a front seat passenger in a car which had allegedly swerved hard to avoid Ferguson, who was standing waving his arms on the Moneymore Road in Cookstown on April 12, 2015.

The car ended up mounting an embankment and smashing into a tree, instantly killing Mrs McNicholl, who sustained severe head trauma.

Ferguson, who has always denied being present on the road at the time of the incident, was found not guilty by majority verdict last November.

The trial heard that Ferguson was found standing in a gateway and told police said he had fallen asleep in a field, having consumed a vast amount of alcohol following his stag night.

He was arrested on suspicion of having a dangerous article on a road and the prosecution had contended Ferguson's action caused Mrs Nicholl's death unintentionally, but after a two-week trial he was cleared.

Ferguson - formerly of Elm Drive, Moneymore, but now of Milburn Close, Cookstown - was yesterday disqualified at Dungannon Magistrates Court after being stopped by police on March 10. Police had received reports of an erratic driver on the Moneymore dual carriageway and discovered Ferguson behind the wheel.

On being spoken to an odour of alcohol was detected after which he was arrested. A front tyre was noted to be completely deflated.

Once in custody, a breath specimen returned a reading of 64mcg of alcohol, which was 29mcg in excess of the limit of 35mcg.

A defence lawyer described the case as "unfortunate", pointing out his client has a previously clear record.

He said that Ferguson, a postman, had gone out for a few drinks after work with colleagues, then went home and consumed more.

He went out briefly and was detected on the short return journey.

However, when the defence lawyer described the alcohol reading as "not the highest" he was contradicted by District Judge John Meehan, who ruled it "substantial and just shy of double the limit".

Fines totalling £300 were imposed with a driving disqualification for 12 months, which can be reduced by 25% on completion of a drink driver course.

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