Showmanship and handbrake turn takes young driver to court

Published: 3 Jan 2013 09:30

A 17-year-old youth was showing off to friends when his car "lifted" off the road at speed ramps at a pedestrian crossing and he then performed a handbrake turn, Fermanagh Court has heard.

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Conor Connolly, of Tattymore, Rosslea, denied driving dangerously at the Lakeland Forum in Enniskillen but pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of careless driving.

District Judge Liam McNally said there was no doubt that people at the leisure centre were probably plagued by people driving in a way they shouldn't and using it as a "race track". However, while he was tempted to support them by saying this was dangerous driving, it seemed to "fall short of dangerous driving", which carries a mandatory disqualification.

He fined Connolly £250 and gave him six penalty points, explaining to Connolly that his licence would be revoked and he would have to re-sit the driving test.

Rodney Howe, a duty officer at the Forum, told the court that around 4pm on April 20, last year, he was standing in the reception area of the leisure centre when he saw a black Ford Focus approaching. He said he didn't know how fast it was going but all four wheels "lifted off the road" as it hit the speed ramps at the pedestrian crossing outside the front door. The driver then headed off towards the exit, turning back into the car park and performing a handbrake turn.

The court heard that Connolly did this in front of friends who were standing nearby and that they then ran over and got into the car.

It was also confirmed that that there were no pedestrians in the area at the time.

Mr. Howe said he took down the vehicle's registration and noticed that there were "R" plates displayed.

He said that when he went over to speak to Connolly about his driving, the teenager asked: "What?" and drove off.

Cross-examined by defence barrister, Miss Heather Philips, Mr. Howe denied exaggerating what happened because of the way Connolly and his friends reacted in that they "laughed, near enough, and drove on".

Another member of the Forum staff, Roy Armstrong, said Mr. Howe drew his attention to the Focus and he saw the rear of the car lifting as it crossed the ramps before doing another "lap" of the one-way system around the car park.

A third member of staff, Fiona Bonner, said she saw the back of the Focus "bounce" over the ramps as the car crossed them at speed and the driver then performed a handbrake turn.

The court was then shown CCTV of the handbrake turn.

A police officer confirmed that another driver was dealt with by way of advice and caution and was not prosecuted.

Connolly told the court he did three laps of the Forum car park "just seeing who was about". He admitted crossing the speed ramps but denied that the rear of his car lifted off the ground.

"No, definitely not," he insisted.

He said he then drove around and applied the handbrake and the car skidded to a halt while his friends watched.

He claimed there was no risk of injury to anyone nor danger of damage to property.

The teenager said he had passed his driving test four months earlier.

The District Judge said he had to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the standard of Connolly's driving fell "far below" that of a careful and competent driver. He said there was an "element of showmanship" about the incident, with Connolly's friends coming running over to him.

He said he was quite happy to accept the evidence of the prosecution witnesses in its entirety and particularly the evidence of Mr. Howe.

However, he said teenager's driving "fell short of dangerous driving" and accordingly convicted him of the lesser offence of careless driving.

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