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Drink driver with 85 previous convictions fails in bid to have prison sentence shortened

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A Dungannon man who asked for his five month custodial sentence for drink driving to be reconsidered had his appeal chucked out by a judge.

John Paul Savage, of Railway View, Coalisland, was sentenced to five months in prison and handed a seven year driving disqualification earlier this month.

The 33-year-old, who has 85 previous convictions (41 for road traffic offences), was arrested for drink driving at a service station in Moira on December 14, 2021.

Police arrived at the service station after being alerted to the situation, where they discovered an open bottle of vodka on the passenger seat.

When asked by police, Savage repeatedly refused to conduct a preliminary preliminary breath test. The keys to the vehicle were located in his jacket pocket when he was searched.

Court heard that Savage has two previous convictions for drink driving, one for driving whilst unfit, one for failing to provide a specimen, and eight for driving whilst disqualified.

On Tuesday, at Craigavon Crown Crown, his defence solicitor admitted his client’s record “doesn’t do him any favours whatsoever”.

However, he asked that His Honour Judge Patrick Lynch QC see it differently than the lower courts’ interpretations that “this is a man determined to keep on offending” and “a leopard that will not change his spots”.

Savage’s solicitor asked that the court see him as a man “that needs assistance”.

He continued: “He’s had an alcohol dependency since he’s 18 years old. However, underlying that, is a man who has an excellent work ethic.

“It’s outlined in the pre-sentence report that he’s engaging with a support worker who described their engagement as very positive. And they also confirmed that he’s engaging with AA.”

Addressing the fact a bench warrant was issued for his appearance in court, the solicitor said his client had been suffering with Covid.

He added: “The police arrested him on July 12, in the morning. He was sober. There was no issue…he went with them without kicking off, as sometimes has happened in the past.

“He’s now got a young child who’s only 18 months old. He really is trying to get help with his addiction.

“He’s concerned about a lengthy period of time in custody, because he’s surrounded by drugs in custody…whereas whenever he was out, he had extra help coming to him two days a week….he had support that he could rely on.”

However, offering Savage, who appeared via videolink from Maghaberry,  short shrift Judge Lynch said: “This man, he has run out of excuses, he just has no concept of responsibility when he goes out on the road, or when he has drink taken. I affirm the sentences in all respects.”

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