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Suspended prison for 75-year-old caught driving a year into five year ban

'I know for a fact you are going to drive again because your record shows you do what you want'

A Waringstown man has been handed a prison suspended sentence after being caught behind the wheel just one year into a five-year driving ban.

When asked about why he had lied to police about not driving the 75-year-old claimed to the court that his solicitor had told him to do so.

William John Cunningham, of Clare Road, pleaded guilty to driving whilst disqualified, using a vehicle without insurance and not having a vehicle test certificate at Craigavon Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.

District Judge Kelly commented: “Given his prior profession I find it hard to believe he doesn’t know that you lose your licence for a drink driving offence.”

Defence counsel stated that the defendant believed that his period of disqualification had passed when he was detected.

District Judge Kelly, who took a very different view, said: “I am of the opinion that Mr Cunningham flouts the law and his record proves that.

“He doesn’t have to resit his test, he doesn’t care who he is putting at risk.”

Defence counsel claimed that this was a “one-off” and that the defendant rarely drives.

She said this was normally to facilitate the transfer of his wife to hospital appointments, something which was confirmed by Cunningham’s son in court.

However, this was dismissed by District Judge Kelly, who stated: “He drives constantly, it is just this was the day on which he was caught.”

Defence counsel said the defendant realised he had “a very real chance of custody given that he already had a suspended sentence over his head”.

It was revealed Cunningham had been handed a five-year ban in 2017.

District Judge Kelly commented: “You do not have to be the brains of Britain to see that does not mean 2018.”

Court also heard the defendant was seen as having a low likelihood of reoffending by probation.

The district judge disagreed, saying: “Given your own background and record, I do not believe you could have not known your disqualification was not up.

“I know for a fact you are going to drive again because your record shows you do what you want.”

Court also heard that when questioned by police the defendant denied driving until he was shown CCTV when he then made no comment.

When asked why he told police he had not been driving Cunningham told court: “My solicitor told me to say that I wasn’t driving.”

District Judge Kelly stated: “Suspended sentences are no use given your lax attitude towards court orders.

“And when your back is against the wall you blame your lawyer.”

She branded this “an atrocious way to behave no matter your age”.

Cunningham was sentenced to six months in prison suspended for three years.

He was also banned from driving for 12 months and ordered to pay fine of £100, along with the offender’s levy of £15, within eight weeks.

District Judge Kelly warned the defendant: “If I even think you have sat behind the front seat behind a wheel you will be sent to prison.”

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