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Wheely bad Disqualified driver threatened with jail after 85 road offences

"You should never be on the road again – if you are behind the wheel of a car, you are only going one place.”

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Caught again: Zoe Pearson

Caught again: Zoe Pearson

Caught again: Zoe Pearson

Ulster’s worst female driver wept in court as she was handed a two-year probation order for her 42nd offence of driving while disqualified.

After hearing an impassioned plea from defence counsel Barry Gibson at Craigavon Crown Court, Judge Patrick Lynch QC told Zoe Pearson it was “with a lot of reluctance” that he would give her probation.

He warned the weeping 39-year-old however that “if you are back before me you will go to jail... the court can only give you so many chances”.

Pearson, from Willow Avenue in Dunmurry, had earlier pleaded guilty to driving while banned, drink driving and driving without insurance on January 21 last year.

Prosecuting lawyer Joseph Murphy told the court that at around 6pm that day, another driver witnessed a silver Vauxhall Vectra crash into the back of a parked van on the Belfast Road in Lurgan, causing it to smash into the wall of a house.

The wall was “completely demolished” and the van was written off, with the damage costing a total of around £6,000, said Mr Murphy, adding that the witness saw Pearson “get out if the driver’s side, run around the car and get into the passenger side.”

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Judge's gavel (stock)

Judge's gavel (stock)

Judge's gavel (stock)

When police arrived at the scene, she claimed the driver had run off but the witness told cops what he had seen and Pearson was arrested, later giving a breath sample 20mgs over the limit of 35.

During interviews she disputed she had been driving but the court heard that DNA taken from blood samples on the driver’s air bag which had deployed in the impact proved positive for Pearson’s profile while there was an “unknown profile” on the passenger airbag.

Despite that evidence, she gave “no comment” during further police interviews.

Mr Murphy submitted that her record – which contains more than 120 offences including 41 for driving while banned, 40 for no insurance and three for drink driving, was a “highly aggravating feature” as was the fact that she was in breach of a suspended sentence.

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Mr Gibson told the court he had consulted for more than an hour with mother-of-five Pearson, who appeared at court via videolink from custody, where she has described her life as “like a revolving door,” cycling between offending and prison but it was a cycle that she wanted to break.

“She described her two weeks in isolation as like being sucked into a black hole,” said the lawyer, who revealed that working with Social Services, she was back in contact with her oldest son and “her priority is to maintain her positive relationship with him and to try to get the other children to have contact with her”.

“This is a lady with complex emotional needs and really, the issue is whether this is a crossroads in her life,” said Mr Gibson, submitting that Pearson is “positive about change and very positive about embracing any help that probation and Social Services can give her”.

Sentencing Pearson, Judge Lynch told her she was “fortunate indeed that nobody was hurt or seriously injured” when she crashed into the van.

“This sort of behaviour cannot be tolerated,” said the judge.

In addition to the probation order, Pearson was handed a ten-year driving ban and told: “You should never be on the road again – if you are behind the wheel of a car, you are only going one place.”

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