Banned motorist ‘out of control and a danger to the public’

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A banned motorist allegedly tried to ram a police car amid efforts to arrest him for “doughnut-spinning” near the Ulster Grand Prix, the High Court has heard.

Stephen O’Neill also struck out at officers as they smashed windows in the BMW he was driving in a bid to seize the ignition keys, prosecutors said.

A judge was told the 27-year-old accused, who previously quit his home due to paramilitary threat, thought he was on private property during the incident in Dundrod, Co Antrim earlier this month.

Refusing bail, Mr Justice Treacy said: “This man is out of control. He’s a danger to himself, a danger to members of the public and presented a serious danger to police that night.”

O’Neill, of Abbeyglen Crescent in Newtownabbey, faces charges of dangerous driving, two assaults on police, driving while disqualified and resisting arrest.

The court heard officers were called to Sycamore Road in Dundrod on August 12 – close to the circuit for the Ulster Grand Prix motorbike races being staged that week.

It was claimed O’Neill was behind the wheel of a BMW performing doughnut manoeuvres while the car’s owner stood watching nearby.

According to the prosecution attempts were then made to ram the PSNI vehicle.

Officers tried to open the locked driver’s door on the BMW while its engine was revving and rear wheels spinning, the court heard.

A Crown lawyer said they used their batons to smash the windows and take the keys amid fears O’Neill was trying to escape.

The accused allegedly punched two constables during the struggle.

Defence counsel Craig Patton said O’Neill wrongly believed he was on private property close to a quarry.

“He accepts driving, doing the doughnuts and an element of dangerous driving,” Mr Patton confirmed.

“But the prosecution account of him ramming police cars and trying to make an escape is absolutely denied.

“He said he was driving, police arrived on the scene, police blocked his car by ramming it and coming in heavy-handed.”

The barrister also revealed O’Neill left west Belfast and moved to Newtownabbey after coming under serious threat from paramilitaries.

Bail was denied due to the risk of reoffending.

The judge added: “I’m not prepared to take a risk either with his life or the lives of others.”