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Man more than five times the drink limit at roadside has four year ban reduced to two years on appeal

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A man believed to have had one of the highest ever road side drink drive readings in Northern Ireland who had been banned from getting behind the wheel for four years and ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work as a “direct alternative” to prison has had the disqualification reduced to two years on appeal.

James McCurdy (48), of Ashbrook Park in Balnamore near Ballymoney, was more than five times the limit after he was found slumped in a vehicle which crashed around 12.30pm on Monday February 25 this year.

He crashed into another car which had stopped at road works at Balnamore Road and at the scene McCurdy registered 185 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath with the legal limit being 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.

His later evidential breath sample at a police station was 156 micrograms of breath per 100 millilitres of breath.

The defendant had recently appeared at Coleraine Magistrates Court for sentencing after previously pleading guilty to driving with excess alcohol in his breath and the case had been adjourned for a pre-sentence report.

At the previous court when District Judge Peter King heard the reading he said: “I think we may have a record here”.

At the recent Magistrates Court hearing a prosecutor said police were called to a report of a vehicle being involved in a collision and the defendant was slumped over and was so drunk he had to be lifted out of the vehicle by officers.

McCurdy, who had been alone in his vehicle, was unable to walk and his speech was slurred and he was unable to respond to questions, the court heard.

A prosecutor said another driver had stopped at road works when he noticed a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which veered onto grass and back onto the road before carrying straight on into his vehicle.

When interviewed by police McCurdy had no recollection of what happened and thought he had been arrested by police in the kitchen of his home rather than at the road side.

The prosecution lawyer said that during the interview the defendant showed no remorse about what could have happened by the nature of his condition at that time of the day and the fact that there was a “primary school nearby”.

Defence barrister Thomas McKeever said it was accepted the case was aggravated by the high reading.

The lawyer said McCurdy suffered from arthritis and took medication for that and for his mental health which had mixed with the alcohol.

Mr McKeever had said the defendant had a previously clear record and was a “man of good character” who worked as a mechanic and stood to lose his job.

“He is extremely remorseful today and very relieved no one was injured,” said the lawyer at the earlier court who said it was a “low speed collision”.

At the Magistrates Court, District Judge Peter King said he was “entirely at a loss” to understand both the offence and the defendant’s initial reaction to it.

He told McCurdy: “You were more than four times over the limit by the time you were breathalysed at the station. At the side of the road you were five times.”

For someone with no record it was an “astounding piece of offending” the judge said and he added that the Community Service was a “direct alternative” to jail.

The defendant appealed the sentence and at the County Court in Coleraine this week the Community Service element was kept in place but the driving ban was reduced to two years.

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