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Dog walker spotted car thief who had taken ‘week’s supply of sleeping tablets’

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A dog walker spotted a car thief who had taken a week’s supply of sleeping tablets stumbling into a house at 5am, a court was told.

Patrick James McDonald (28), of Sperrin Road, Limavady, had stolen a Vauxhall Vectra from the Roeview Park area of the town on March 7 this year.

The vehicle had originally been left unlocked with a key beside the gear stick, Coleraine Magistrates Court heard on May 20.

A witness said they were out walking a dog at 5am when they saw McDonald exit a vehicle and stagger across the road to his home address.

A prosecutor said police received a report at 6.40am on March 7 from another person that a vehicle with substantial damage was abandoned with the lights on and the door open.
When police spoke to McDonald at 8.50am he wasn’t fit to stand.

The car key was recovered from his pocket.

A breath sample showed there was no alcohol in his breath.

It also emerged substantial damage had been caused to the passenger side of a Golf car in a collision after a “loud crash” had been heard around 3.30am.

A woman also contacted police to say she had forgotten to lock a car and her purse had been stolen.

During interview, McDonald made full admissions and said he had taken a “week’s supply of sleeping tablets”.

He had no recollection of driving and acknowledged how dangerous his actions on the road would have been.

McDonald appeared via video link from Maghaberry Prison and admitted charges of driving while disqualified; aggravated taking and causing damage to a vehicle; no insurance; failing to stop, remain and report an accident and driving while unfit.

Defence barrister Alan Stewart said the offences were committed just days after McDonald had been released from prison after being jailed on charges including burglary and dangerous driving.

The lawyer said the defendant had a long-standing problem with abuse of prescription medication but is now “clean” and was working with ‘Adept’ in custody.

Mr Stewart said McDonald accepted his driving had been dangerous and he acknowledged the stress the matter had caused to those caught up in the case.

He said the defendant was “ashamed and embarrassed by the way people will see him now”.

The barrister said McDonald began GCSE art and was doing cookery classes in custody and had a promise of a job as a labourer when released.

“He is fed up with his own behaviour,” said Mr Stewart.

District Judge Peter King said the defendant had been released from prison on March 4 and on March 7 “you then decided to embark on a litany of exactly the same sort of behaviour”.

McDonald was given a five months jail term; a three year driving ban and was fined £700.
The judge said if there was a “similar rapid turnaround” of offending when the defendant is again released from prison the case could go to the Crown Court which has greater sentencing powers.

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