Driver doing handbrake turns in stolen car '˜high on glue'

A Belfast man who was high on glue while doing handbrake turns in a stolen car was handed a suspended prison sentence on Thursday.

Thursday, 5th July 2018, 5:28 pm
Updated Monday, 16th July 2018, 5:11 pm

Michael Johnston (31), of Riverview Meadows in the west of the city, pleaded guilty at Belfast Crown Court to a catalogue of motoring offences relating to the incident almost six years ago.

He admitted dangerous driving, having no insurance, driving whilst disqualified, driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs, stealing a car and possessing a knife or blade in a public place.

Prosecution lawyer David Russell told Judge Paul Ramsey QC that a Ford Mondeo car was stolen from a house in east Belfast during a ‘creeper burglary’ sometime between October 14-15, 2012.

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In the early hours of October 15, police observed the Mondeo on the Donegall Road in Belfast doing “handbrake turns’’.

The prosecution lawyer said the car was travelling at a “high speed’’ along the road and continued to do more handbrake turns before he noticed police were in pursuit of him.

“He tried to evade police and either blew the clutch or engine given the manner and nature of his driving,’’ said Mr Russell.

“He tried to mount the footpath as police tried to stop him and collided with the police vehicle.’’

The stolen car finally came to a halt at the Park Centre and as police tried to remove him from the car, a crowd gathered which dispersed when more police officers arrived.

“He was found to be intoxicated and a knife, about four or five inches in length, was located in his back pocket.

“At police interview he claimed the knife was for his own protection and that he had been sniffing glufe from midday on October 14. He claimed that he had only been given the keys to the car about five minutes before police arrested him.’’

The judge heard that a bag of glue was located in the car and when forensically examined it was found to contain the adhesive product Evo Stik. When ingested, said the lawyer, “it causes drowsiness, depression and hallucinations’’.

Mr Russell told the judge that the reason why it had taken six years to bring the case to court was that there were a number of attempts to serve indictable summonses on Johnston but “were returned unserved’’.

However, he said that despite this, Johnston was repeatedly appearing in court in the intervening years on unrelated charges, adding: “He could have been located with more effort.’’

Defence barrister Barry Gibson said Johnston was now a “different man’’ from 2012, having turned his life around and was now in a stable relationship with his partner who has been a “good influence on him which was very positive for him’’.

Judge Ramsey told Johnston that had he been sentenced at the time for the offences “you would have got a custodial sentence and this would all have been past you by now’’.

Given the delay in the case and the positive probation report, the judge said he would sentence Johnston to 18 months in custody suspended for two years and banned him from driving for three years.

“If you stay out of trouble and get the support you need, you will heard no more about the matter,” said Judge Ramsey.