Suspended sentence for ‘hopelessly drunk’ man who crashed into house

Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66
Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66

A judge has said that a man who drove a car into a house is a ‘danger to other people’ and ‘could have killed someone’.

District Judge Barney McElholm made the comment as 29-year-old Sam Edward James McGinley appeared at Derry Magistrates Court.

McGinley, of Bloomfield Park, drove his car into a house in Cornshell Fields causing £5,000 of ‘extensive structural damage’.

The 29-year-old pleaded guilty to driving with excess alcohol, driving without due car and attention, common assault and failing to stop, remain and report the accident.

The offences were committed on October 27, last year.

Derry Magistrates Court heard McGinley crashed his Peugeot car into the front of the house in Cornshell Fields and made off from the scene. He returned a short time later and attempted to punch a resident of the street, however the punch did not connect.

The 29-year-old identified himself to a number of witnesses and tried to intimidate them so they didn’t call the police and then made his way to a house in the estate.

Police located him a short time later in a bedroom of this house wearing just his underwear.

A breath sample was taken and it gave a reading of 96mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath, over almost three times over the legal limit.

During police interview, McGinley admitted driving the car and that he had been drinking. He claimed that he saw a man in the area who he has had a ‘long running feud’ with and he was concerned for his safety.

The 39-year-old claimed he was trying to evade this man and lost control of his car at a mini roundabout.

He offered to pay for the damage caused.

Defence counsel Eoghan Devlin said that the incident was ‘very serious’ but a ‘one off’. He added that McGinley was concerned the man he saw on this night would use violence against him and while that does not excuse his actions, it explains them.

Suspending a five month jail term for three years, District Judge Barney McElholm said the 29-year-old could have killed someone.

He said what caused the accident was the fact McGinley was ‘hopelessly drunk and driving too fast and too recklessly in the circumstances’.

The judge fined McGinley a total of £550 and disqualified him from driving for ten years. He said the defendant must stay away from driving as he is ‘a danger to other people, not only other drivers but people sitting in their living rooms’.