Farmer avoids being sent to jail over collision


A north Antrim farmer who ploughed down the side of a car before fleeing the scene in his combine harvester and then lying about his identity avoided being sent to jail yesterday to allow him to care for his elderly mother.

Suspending 36-year-old Richard McConaghy’s nine-month jail term for two years at Antrim Crown Court, Judge Des Marrinan said while legal guidelines “prompt the court to consider immediate custody”, it was his view there were exceptional circumstances which “would justify not sending you to prison”.

Having heard how his mother is about to undergo a course of serious hospital treatment for a life-threatening illness, the judge told McConaghy that to jail him “would be so hard on her it would be unconscionable”, given that his father could not take her back and forth to hospital and it was only McConaghy who was physically capable of looking after the family farm on the Causeway Road in Bushmills.

During an earlier court hearing McConaghy pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice by giving false personal details, failing to remain after an accident which caused damage, and driving a combine harvester at the Diamond and Dunluce Road without insurance.

Arrested and interviewed, McConaghy maintained his denials that he had been involved in any collision but abandoned those claims when he eventually pleaded guilty.

Defence solicitor Ciaran Steele said that rather than a calculated decision to give out false details, McConaghy had acted in a “panic” but that by 8am the following morning, “phone calls were already being made to direct them straight to Richard McConaghy”, who was both embarrassed and ashamed for what he had done.

He told the court McConaghy had expressly instructed him to apologise to the driver of the car involved in the incident for any distress he had caused and that, although he was not insured at the time, more than £5,000 had been paid out by McConaghy and his parents to fix the damaged car and in legal fees.

As well as the suspended jail term, Judge Marrinan imposed a £150 fine and seven penalty points on McConaghy.