Bouncy castle arson victim fined over driving offences

The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.
The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.

The owner of party-hire company, Legenderry Bouncy Castles, has been fined £925, disqualified from driving and given a suspended jail term after pleading guilty to a series of driving offences, committed on two separate dates over the past year-and-a-half.

Derry Magistrate’s Court heard how Paul Burke (26), of Kavanagh Court, was excused from appearing at Bishop Street yesterday, and how he had been the victim of an arson attack in late August when his van was set ablaze by vandals in Ballymagroarty.

Outlining the facts of the case a Public Prosecution Service (PPS) solicitor told the court how Mr Burke had been observed by police driving in a Transit van on the Crescent Link on November 16, 2015, and that when he was pulled over by officers he was found to have had only a provisional licence, having been due to complete his driving test a few days later on November 19.

The court heard Mr Burke had also been driving without insurance, without displaying ‘L’ plates, and that he was unaccompanied.

The PPS solicitor went on to outline details of a separate charge of driving whilst using a mobile phone on the Aileach Road and on the Northland Road on August 5.

On that occasion Mr Burke was offered a fixed penalty but this was refused, the court heard.

Defence solicitor Paddy McDermott told the court that the first incident was “rather unfortunate” in that he had gone on to pass his test just three days after the first offences had occurred and that he had had insurance for an unqualified licence at the time. He said Mr Burke was a businessman who ran a successful bouncy castle business in the city. He referred to how his van had been burned out in a recent arson attack.

Mr McDermott said Mr Burke was trying to get his business, which employed a number of people, back on track. The court also heard how Mr Burke’s licence had been incinerated in the arson attack.

District Judge Barney McElholm noted the defendant had a “terrible record” for no insurance and one previous conviction for driving whilst using a mobile phone.

“We’ve seen how dangerous that can be,” he said, before adding. “He just seems to be taking chance after chance.”

For the offences on November 16, 2015, he was fined £150 for driving as an unaccompanied learner; £50 for driving without ‘L’ plates; £500 for driving with no insurance; and £25 for failing to produce his licence. For the no insurance offence he was disqualified for driving for nine months and given a three month jail term suspended for two years. For driving while using a mobile phone he was fined £200.

District Judge McElholm said: “Clearly he needs to learn the laws of the road.”