Belfast Telegraph

SDLP councillor admits to 'error of judgment' over driving offences

BY GEORGE JACKSON AND CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

An SDLP councillor fined for a series of driving offences must remember his public responsibility to obey the law and set an example, according to a member of Stormont's justice committee.

James Carr, a member of Derry City Council, was fined £300 and given a conditional discharge for 12 months at Londonderry Magistrates Court when he admitted committing four driving offences last month.

Mr Carr (26), from Merriman Court, also had six penalty points endorsed on his driving licence.

The court was told that the police were called to a traffic accident at Aileach Road on the outskirts of the city on September 5 when a youth who ran onto the road from behind a parked bus was struck by a van driven by Carr.

A prosecution solicitor said while Carr was not at fault, it transpired he had no insurance, no L plates, was not accompanied by a qualified driver and had taken the van without the owner's consent.

A defence solicitor said Carr had taken the van "to go to buy formula feed for his baby".

DUP MLA Jim Wells, a member of the justice committee, said that there was a particular responsibility on public representatives not only to obey the law but to set an example.

He said: "Being a public representative there is a particular onus for him to show an example to the rest of the community. People do often look to those in public life for a lead in these things and he may be a bit disappointed in himself as a public representative that this has happened.

"In the absence of more detail on the case, it's a first offence and there are credits for pleading guilty, having no drink involved and provided he didn't leave the scene, these all count when it comes to overall sentencing tariffs.

"I think Mr Carr, if it happened again, would have to consider his position, but one mistake would indicate he would keep his seat. But he must be aware that if it happened again he could be under pressure to resign."

Yesterday Mr Carr issued a statement in which he apologised for a "huge error in judgment".

"I want to express sincere remorse for my actions which led to me appearing in Derry Magistrates Court on Wednesday, October 30 on the charge of driving without a licence," he said.

"This was a huge error in judgment on my part. I take full responsibility for my actions.

"I fully co-operated with the PSNI at the scene and since. I accept the judgment of the court and I will immediately seek to undertake a driving test in compliance with that judgment. I can honestly say I have learned a valuable lesson and this incident is one never to be repeated."

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