Former boxing champ was drunk as he drove wrong way down M1

Jim McKee admitted the charges and has a long history of driving offences
Jim McKee admitted the charges and has a long history of driving offences

A former all-Ireland boxing champion turned artist has admitted driving dangerously down a motorway the wrong way while drunk.

Dungannon Magistrates’ Court heard that when police arrived at the scene on the M1 last month, 45-year-old Jim McKee was fast asleep at the wheel.

A prosecuting lawyer told the court that when roused and told what he had done, McKee replied: “I was so drunk I didn’t realise. At least I didn’t hurt anybody.”

McKee, originally from Cookstown but now living in Abbey West, Bell Harbour in Co Clare, pleaded guilty to drink driving, driving dangerously on the M1 in Coalisland and causing a vehicle to stop and remain on the hard shoulder of the motorway on September 20.

A prosecution lawyer described how McKee was apprehended around 6am after police received a number of reports of a black jeep traveling the wrong direction. Officers found it parked on the hard shoulder, the engine warm, the keys in the ignition with McKee asleep in the driver’s seat.

A sample of breath had a reading of 52mcg of alcohol, 17mcg in excess.

McKee’s defence barrister said his client fully admitted his actions for which he is “deeply ashamed,” accepting that another driver had to take evasive action due to McKee’s behaviour.

The lawyer explained how McKee has been in relationship with a woman from Tyrone and the couple have a one-year-old child together, bringing him from Co Clare to the jurisdiction more often.

His property in Co Clare has recently been repossessed due to “financial turmoil” revealed the lawyer, adding that McKee now intends to settle in Donaghmore with his partner.

In relation to the incident, the defence said McKee had been playing a music gig in Moy where he had a beer and he intended to spend the night with friends so had made his way to their home.

More alcohol was consumed but around 5am, McKee received a phone call from his partner who was concerned about the child and it was that call which led to him making the “inexcusable decision” to drive to Donaghmore.

The defence accepted McKee has previous road traffic convictions but highlighted they had been some time ago and contended sentencing could proceed straight away.

However, District Judge John Meehan said: “It’s hard to credit why anyone with the defendant’s antecedents, would chose to drive in that condition.”

He then read out a string of McKee’s previous convictions which included taking and driving away in 1992; drink driving in 2000; refusing to provide a specimen of breath, assault and drink driving in 2001, and a further drink driving in 2002 for which there was a disqualification of four years.

Ruling pre-sentence reports were necessary, Judge Meehan added: “Anyone driving drunk with that record is bad enough, but the defendant was so befuddled he then drove on the motorway the wrong direction, which aggravates matters seriously.”

McKee is to return for sentencing on November 27.