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Drink driver four times over limit as he crashed outside school at closing time avoids jail

When confronted by the Sunday World outside his large home, Martin Higgins said ‘It was just a bad day’

Steven Moore and Paul HigginsSunday World

A crazed driver who was four times over the drink drive limit as he crashed outside a school at closing time is “lucky” he’s not behind bars.

A judge at Ballymena Magistrates Court told Martin Higgins his case could easily have been sent to the Crown Court as it was so serious.

He added that had he been put before a judge and jury, he would most likely be facing an “immediate custodial sentence”.

Ordering Higgins to complete 120 hours of community service as a “direct alternative” to a prison sentence, District Judge Nigel Broderick told the 44-year-old: “If you had hit a child this could have been a very tragic case and you could have been in front of a judge and jury facing an immediate custodial sentence.”

In addition to the community service, the judge also handed Higgins an 18-month driving ban for the “very high” alcohol reading.

But parents of Ballymena Primary School in Ballymena where he crashed while hammered told the Sunday World last night the sentence was a joke.

“This guy was four times over the limit and yet all he gets is a slap on the wrist,” said one furious mum who had contacted us last month to alert us to Higgins’ guilty plea.

“This could have been a major incident where multiple kids were killed because someone was so selfish they got behind the wheel of a car while plastered.

“The judge has missed a chance to send a strong message to every idiot thinking about drink driving this Christmas. He should be behind bars to serve as a reminder to everyone else just how serious and devastating an offence this can be.”

At an earlier hearing Higgins, from the Ballymoney Road in Ballymena which is just up the road from the school, admitted driving with excess alcohol and failing to report an accident.

A prosecuting lawyer told the court how it was “getting out time” at Ballymena Primary School when Higgins’ van drifted across the lane and struck a parked car around 3pm on September 28 this year.

He got out and began to walk away but the woman whose car he struck filmed him on her mobile phone and contacted the police.

Police saw a woman’s vehicle was damaged and Higgins’ vehicle was also damaged but he was not in it.

The woman driver told police could smell drink from Higgins when she approached him. She was able to give a description of the driver to police who spoke to him 200 yards away.

When Higgins was breathalysed, he gave a reading of 130, close to four times the limit of 35, and defence counsel Stephen Law conceded “at the very outset that this is a very serious offence”.

“He can be thankful that there was a slight impact and there was no child involved,” said the barrister.

When confronted by the Sunday World outside his large home last month, he said: “I don’t want to comment about the court case.”

He confirmed he had not been picking up children at the time of the crash and added: “It was just a bad day.”

But parents at the school had more to say, with one furious mum, who tipped off the Sunday World about the incident, saying: “He’s a very selfish idiot.

“It’s unacceptable to do that at any time but to do it and drive past a school where hundreds of young kids are getting out it jaw-dropping.

“We knew there had been a crash close to the school but it was only when we read about the court details online that we found out just how over the limit he was.

“He’s lucky he didn’t kill a child.”

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