Jail for Derry driver who crashed while on seven different drugs

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A Derry man with 129 previous convictions received a four month prison sentence today following convictions for driving while unfit through drugs and assaults on police, including striking a female PSNI officer on the face.

After his arrest following a road traffic collision at Eastway Gardens, Creggan, on April 13 this year, seven different drugs including cannabis and diazepam were detected in Hugh Gerard McConnell’s bloodstream.

District Judge Barney McElholm told McConnell of Kingsmere Gardens: “To take drugs and get behind the wheel of a car crosses the threshold for custody.”

Judge McElholm heard that following the crash, police found the 38 year-old defendant “unsteady on his feet, confused, had chewed lips and glazed eyes”.

The court was also told that McConnell became “aggressive and abusive towards officers in an attempt to avoid handcuffs being placed on him”.

Blood samples taken at the PSNI station detected several types of drugs - some prescribed, some illegal - in his system though the defendant denied being impaired.

Following the crash and altercation with police, McConnell was charged with driving while unfit through drink or drugs, two counts of assaulting police and one of resisting police. Futher police enquiries found irregularities with McConnell’s insurance documentation which gave rise to charges of making false declarations and driving without insurance.

He also faced a charge of driving without due care and attention.

District Judge Barney McElholm, said: “Seven different types of drugs were found in his system and he indulged in extremely bad driving which resulted in a collision. Luckily no-one was injured but that was down to sheer luck. This man has an absolutely disgraceful record with 129 prior convictions.

“In addition to that he has outstanding fines of £500, is unfit for community service and has no intention, no matter what he says, of paying compensation to the victims.”

On each count of assaulting police, McConnell was given a four months prison sentence, for driving while unfit he was disqualified from driving for four years and sentenced to three months in prison, while for making a false declaration he received a three months jail term, all sentences to run concurrently. For careless driving McConnell was fined £500 plus an offender levy of £25 and for driving without a valid insurance policy he was fined a further £500.