A millionaire property developer who crashed his Ferrari while more than twice the legal drink-drive limit has been handed a driving ban and ordered to complete 75 hours of community service.
As well as the driving ban, 53-year-old Christopher David Walsh was fined £75 by District Judge Peter King at Ballymena Magistrates’ Court.
Defence QC Gregory Berry revealed there would be an appeal to the five-year disqualification and while bail of £500 was fixed for that, Judge King refused to allow Walsh to drive pending the hearing.
Following a contest earlier this year Walsh, from Mount Pleasant in Stranmillis in south Belfast, was convicted of driving with excess alcohol consumed; driving without due care and attention; failing to stop at the scene of an accident; and failing to remain at the scene of an accident following an incident on the Belfast Road in Holywood in September 2015.
The court had been told that Walsh had crashed his £150,000 Ferrari California T into two cars before leaving the scene of the accident, but within minutes he was discovered hiding in bushes by an off-duty police officer.
Walsh had ran a so-called ‘hip flask’ defence with Mr Berry claiming he had in fact consumed the alcohol after the impact.
But convicting Walsh, Judge King commented that defence had “failed spectacularly”.
During his plea in mitigation Mr Berry said his client had been assessed by the Probation Service as being at a “low risk of reoffending”.
Mr Berry said that Walsh’s case had attracted some adverse media coverage but handed into court three references which, he said, “portray a completely different picture of this man – someone who is generous and quiet behind the scenes in terms of helping many different people”.
“The portrayal can be of a brash and flash individual but the references show that is far from the truth,” added the lawyer.
Mr Berry said Walsh’s previous drink-driving offence had been some nine-and-half years ago, meaning the current offence fell just inside the 10-year period within which a second drink-driving conviction would attract a mandatory minimum driving ban of three years.
“He is not a serial offender – you are not dealing with someone with multiple drink-driving convictions,” the barrister added.
Sentencing Walsh, the judge noted that it was the 15th court appearance – including a lengthy contested hearing – for a matter which, he said, could have been dealt with by a guilty plea at an earlier stage.
He said that the minimum disqualification would be “entirely inappropriate” in the case.
Judge King said that as a result of the “extremely glowing” references provided to the court, he would allow the defendant to undertake a drink-driving awareness course which would reduce his period of disqualification by a quarter.
However, the judge refused to grant the defendant permission to drive until his appeal is heard.