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Offending of granddad (52) with 55 previous convictions has ‘petered out’, court told

Judge Keenan Johnson remarked that the offending seemed to have petered out from 2009 onwards.

Sligo Courthouse

Sligo Champion

A 52 year old grandfather with 55 previous convictions had a jail sentence lifted on appeal to Sligo Circuit Court which heard his offending had “petered out” in recent years.

Before the court was James McMorrow of Market House, Market Yard, Sligo who was appealing motoring convictions imposed at the District Court for motoring offences.

The defendant was represented by Mr Eugene Deering BL (instructed by Mr Gerard McGovern, solicitor who told Judge Keenan Johnson that the matter was being appealed on grounds of severity only.

McMorrow was convicted by Judge Sandra Murphy of using a false driving licence and not having insurance at the Market Yard on July 25th 2020.

He was jailed for two months and banned from driving for 12 months for the insurance offence and given a three month suspended term on the licence charge.

The defendant was also convicted of driving without insurance four days later on July 29th at Ray MacSharry Road and given a two month sentence with a six year driving ban.

Outlining the background to the offences at the Circuit Court, Detective Garda Eamon McDonnell told Ms Elisa McHugh, State Solicitor (prosecuting) that the appellant was observed by Garda John McNulty driving a 2011 Audi car at excessive speed into the Market Yard on July 25th 2020 around 5am.

McMorrow was searched under the Misuse of Drugs Act and a demand was made from him to produce his licence and insurance.

He produced a full Irish driving licence but the Garda believed this to be false and it was seized. It was subsequently sent for examination and it was confirmed to be a fake licence. The appellant failed to produce insurance.

On July 29th the appellant was observed driving an Audi car by Garda Costello around midday.

There was no NCT on the car and it was seized.

Witness outlined how the defendant has 55 previous convictions including road traffic public order, assault and drug offences dating back several years.

Judge Keenan Johnson remarked that the offending seemed to have petered out from 2009 onwards.

In reply to Mr Deering, Garda McDonnell accepted that at the time of the offences the appellant was having issues with a neighbour.

Mr Deering submitted that on the first occasion the appellant was moving his car as a result.

On the second time, the appellant was on his way to sell the car, he said. Garda McDonnell replied that he could not dispute this if the appellant was saying this.

Mr Deering said the car was sold a short time later. The appellant found it difficult to keep it financially.

He did have a provisional licence but was driving unaccompanied as a result of the breakdown of a relationship of some three years in and around this time, said Mr Deering.

Mr Deering submitted that the offending took place over a period of four days during the Covid lockdown which the appellant was finding difficult to cope with.

His relationship broke up and he was endeavouring to sell the car.

It was naivety which led to the appellant securing a false driving licence which he thought would solve his problem of driving unaccompanied.

Mr Deering said it was an easy offence to detect with the appellant’s name and picture on the false licence.

The appellant was holding his hands up with respect to the offence.

Mr Deering submitted that the appllant had a difficult upbringing and had turned to alcohol to deal with issues of his past.

He was the youngest in a family of ten and according to report before the court from the charity, Social Ground Force, Mr McMorrow had been “born into addiction.”

He took his first drink at 11, was before the courts at 12 and was detained at the age of 14 for two years, at a time, said Mr Deering when imprisonment wasn’t seen as a last resort.

At the age of 30, he lost both his parents and in recent years, two of his sisters.

He never really addressed issues arising from this and his past and the Social Ground Force report suggested that he had symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder., said Mr Deering. He added that these were factors leading to a lot of the appellant’s trouble.

The appellant was now regularly attending AA meetings and addiction services. He was no longer taking substances.

Mr Deering said the latest probation report suggested that with the right structures in place he can be put on the right path.

“I would say he is now taking full reponsibility for his behaviour of his past,” said Mr Deering.

He said the appellant had shown a change of attitude and wantred to become a productive member of society, start his own business, be a good neighbour, father and grandfather.

He was fully agreeable to the recommendations contained in the probation report.

McMorrow, in evidence, said he was attending weekly AA meetings and he intended to keep away from people who indulge in such practices. He added that he was drug and alcohol free.

He outlined how he was 19 when he was released from an institution and that he had gone from institution to institution after that.

He said he had the mentality of a 13 year old when he was released and ended up committing a litany of no insurance offences.

The appellant said he didn’t know what insurance or a driving licence was for.

Judge Johnson said he was impressed that the appellant had not been in trouble for the past two and a half years and that he had engaged with AA and the Social Ground Force team.

He had been honest and he does have issues from his past. The Judge noted the very comprehensive nature of the probation report, which he said was most helpful.

The Judge removed the prison sentences imposed at the District Court.

He imposed a four month jail term, suspended for two years on condition that the appellant enter a bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for two years.

He must also undergo probation service supervision for two years, remain alcohol and drug and comply with all Garda and probation service requests for analysis.

The appellant must also undergo 120 hours of community service with assessment as regards suitability to take place between now and June.

The six year driving ban remains but was backdated to the date of the District Court.

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