Civil servant who caused serious injuries to motorcyclist has ban reduced

Laganside Courts, Belfast.  Pic: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker 22/5/2013

Laganside Courts, Belfast. Pic: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker 22/5/2013

A civil servant whose careless driving caused serious injuries to a motorcyclist has won her appeal against an extended ban on getting back behind the wheel.

Senior judges reduced 62-year-old Patricia McKeown’s disqualification period from three years to 12 months for the “one-off” accident while en route to helping her daughter pick a wedding dress.

They held that the original sentence wrongly focused on the consequences of the collision in Co Down rather than assessing future risk.

Motorcyclist David Patton crashed into Ms McKeown’s Peugeot 206 car on the Comber to Ballygowan Road in September 2013.

She had been manoeuvring across oncoming lanes at the brow of a hill after missing a turn-off for Hillsborough where she was to meet her daughter.

Mr Patton sustained multiple fractures, along with significant psychological and emotional trauma.

He stated that he may never be able to work again.

In 2015 Ms McKeown, from Newtownards, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily injury by careless driving.

She was ordered to complete 150 hours community service and disqualified for three years - after which she was to sit an extended driving test.

Ms McKeown challenged the length of the ban and requirement to take the test.

Ruling on the case at the Court of Appeal, Mrs Justice Keegan held that it had been wrong to go beyond the minimum, mandatory 12-month disqualification period.

“We consider that the learned trial judge erred by relying upon the consequences of the collision,” she said.

“The disqualification should be related to an assessment of future risk.”

Stressing that their reasoning did not detract from Mr Patton’s suffering, she continued: “A disqualification is intended to be forward looking and preventative.

“In all of the circumstances of this case the risk is low.”

Pointing to Ms McKeown’s “exemplary” driving and personal history, the judge noted how the accident has had a “profound” effect on her.

She added: “This was a one-off incident for which the appellant displayed immediate remorse.”

Mrs Justice Keegan reduced the motoring ban to 12 months and also removed the requirement to sit an extended driving test.