A 58-year-old man who pulled out of a junction in Enniskillen and forced another driver to swerve to avoid a collision but still ended up crashing has been convicted of dangerous driving after contest.

Raymond Crotty of Silverhill Manor was pulling out of his estate onto the Loughshore Road when the incident occurred on March 16, 2019.

Crotty was the only witness to take the stand, with the evidence of the injured party and a police officer agreed.

The defendant told how he had left his apartment and was driving out of the estate. On the way out he pulled over to speak with his sister on his mobile phone about his father who had been discharged from hospital the previous day. Further on and closer to the junction Crotty received a text message which he said he stopped and looked at before carrying on to the junction.

At the junction he said he looked right and left before pulling out onto the Loughshore Road. He said he saw a car coming from the Enniskillen direction and thought it was far enough away that he could get out in time. Crotty said he pulled out thinking he had time to get across and he only saw the other car when it went past in front of him to avoid crashing.

The defendant said an explanation was he was not concentrating and had been distracted by the earlier message and had misjudged the speed.

During cross examination by a Public Prosecution Service (PPS) representative she said the statement of the injured party said Crotty had told them he had been texting on the phone and then pulled out and that this is what must have happened. In their submissions, the PPS representative said that the standard of driving was below a competent standard.

Stefan Rafferty, barrister representing Crotty said it was crucial not to focus on the mobile phone as the cross examination had and to park the notion of the phone being in his hand. He said Crotty was guilty of a misjudgement of speed of the vehicle and distracted by what was going on.

District Judge Steven Keown in giving his findings said the case turned on what happened at the junction. He said the agreed evidence of the injured party was the defendant pulled out slowly and they had to swerve to avoid colliding. There was no indication of speeding by the injured party at all.

Judge Keown said he had come to the “inescapable conclusion” that the injured party was almost at the junction travelling at 40mph and the defendant only saw the car when it was in front of him and there was a complete lack of awareness for what was going on around him, was texting, looked up and pulled out anyway.

He said putting to one side the family circumstances of Crotty, the facts of the case were he was clearly distracted by the phone on a busy main road and still pulled put and gave the injured party nowhere to go before convicting him of dangerous driving.

Mr. Rafferty said his client was an electrician and was also involved in the care of his father and a disqualification would put him in difficulty with his job and father. He added it was his first entry on record and was very unlikely to come before the court again.

Judge Keown disqualified Crotty for 15 months along with a £500 fine pointing out the matter was contested, the aggravating features of injury and damage and the element of carrying out other tasks while driving. He noted that there was no animosity between the parties and Crotty did not seek to lay the blame elsewhere.