A man who narrowly missed striking a schoolchild and who crashed into a car with another youngster on board was jailed on Friday for the “appalling driving.”
John Armour was handed a two-year sentence and was banned from driving for three years after appearing in Belfast Crown Court on a litany of motoring offences.
The 27-year old, from Upper Greenwell Street in Newtownards, came to the attention of police in two separate incidents over 12-hour period last June.
Telling Armour he will serve half his sentence in prison, with the remaining 12 months spend on licence upon his release, Judge Patricia Smyth blasted the defendant for putting the lives of pedestrians and other road users as risk with his “appalling driving.”
Before passing sentence, the Judge was informed that just before midnight on Monday June 6 last year, a silver Megane came to the attention of the PSNI in east Belfast.
Officers followed the car and despite attempts to try and get the driver to stop, the car drove on and drove through several sets of red traffic lights in a bid to evade police.
Around Woodstock Link the Megane, being driven by Armour, was also seen on the wrong side of the road which caused other motorists to take evasive action. At this point, police stopped their pursuit.
At around 8.40am the following morning, the same vehicle was seen at Ravenhill Avenue. When Armour saw officers, he did a u-turn in London Street, and again failed to stop for police. Once again, Armour drove dangerously and ignored traffic signs.
Prosecuting barrister Mark Farrell said that as he drove past a primary school a “young female child was crossing the road and was narrowly missed by the defendant, who also had a near miss with a cyclist.”
Armour also clipped a BMW before crashing into a second vehicle driven by a woman who had her child with her on My Lady’s Road. After this collision, Armour’s car sped off without stopping or remaining at the scene.
Mr Farrell said the woman and the nine-year old passenger sustained bruising in the collision, with the motorist forced to take a week off work to recover.
Armour was pursued by police and when he was eventually stopped, he smelt of alcohol. He was arrested and taken to Musgrave Park police station, where he refused to give a breath sample for analysis.
Mr Farrell told Judge Smyth: “This was a police chase for about four miles on the Tuesday morning. The defendant’s driving was quite appalling in the circumstances, given the risk to the public, other road users and in particular school children who were making their way to school.”
Defence solicitor Eoghan McKenna asked Judge Smyth to give Armour credit for the guilty pleas he entered to all the offences - including two counts of dangerous driving, failing to remain at the scene of a road traffic accident, and also of driving whilst unfit.
Mr McKenna said his client “regrets his actions ... and is thankful he is not facing more serious charges.”
Revealing Armour experienced a “horrific upbringing” - which included periods in foster homes and a limited education which has resulted in “zero employment opportunities” - the solicitor also spoke of his addiction issues.
Mr McKenna concluded by revealing Armour “will continue to find custody challenging.”