PICTURE : MARK JAMIESON
A County Antrim learner driver who attended an Anniversary Mass for a relative left the church in a defective car and when spotted by police he attempted to ‘out-run’ officers in a 90-mph pursuit lasting twenty minutes.
Before being caught, Conor Martin (19), of Bellaghy Road, Dunloy, reversed into one police car and then smashed into another PSNI car causing more damage and injuring two officers.
A prosecutor said that on Sunday February 25 this year police on patrol spotted a car with defects and despite being signalled to stop the driver sped up, reaching up to 90mph.
Martin was at the wheel and and on a number of occasions he drove on the wrong side of the road causing other drivers to take action and then on three occasions he attempted to reverse into a police car, striking the vehicle on the last occasion causing damage.
By this stage, a prosecutor said, another police vehicle had arrived which the defendant collided with, causing substantial damage, causing two police officers to go off on sick leave with injuries which were not believed to be serious.
The Peugeot 406 car was examined and it had defects including springs which were not the correct size.
Martin told police: “I drove on, I thought I could get away”.
Defence solicitor Denise Gillan said: “He was coming from Mass on a Sunday morning when this happened. He is not claiming to be a regular church-goer.”
She said it was an Anniversary Mass for a relative and afterwards the defendant set off for Ballintoy to meet up with his girlfriend and go for a meal.
The solicitor said instead of stopping the defendant “just completely lost the run of himself”.
She added: “He took a rush of blood to the brain. For some reason he thought he could ‘out run’ police”.
Ms Gillan said it was an “appalling piece of driving”.
She said her client had a previously clear record and added: “It is one of the most unusual cases that I have ever had to deal with”.
Martin pleaded guilty to a number of offences including dangerous driving; failing to stop for police; using a vehicle in a dangerous condition; having an incorrect number plate and offences relating to suspension, exhaust and tyres.
He was uninsured, had no MOT; was an unaccompanied learner driver; had not displayed L plates and he also admitted causing criminal damage to a police vehicle.
Martin also pleaded guilty to possessing cannabis which was found in the car. His lawyer said someone else left the drugs there but because Martin knew of their presence he admitted the possession charge.
District Judge Peter King said he was “flabbergasted” that somebody with a clear record behaved like Martin did.
He said the defendant could have killed himself and others and had left two police officers off duty.
The judge said he needed a pre-sentence report and adjourned the case to May and released the defendant on his own bail of £500. An interim driving ban was imposed.