A DONEGAL pensioner and former musician has been spared prison after appearing in court on driving charges.

86-year-old Denis McLaughlin was before Buncrana District Court.

McLaughlin was arrested by arrangement on foot of two bench warrants.

McLaughlin was charged with refusing to provide a specimen of his breath and with a further public order office. He made no reply when cautioned.

On April 9, 2019 at 7.45pm Gardaí observed a Fiesta driving towards Buncrana at Drumfries, moving across a continuous white line. After conducting a road side breath test, Gardaí arrested McLaughlin.

Sergeant Jim Collins told the court that McLaughlin would not blow into the apparatus at Buncrana Garda Station.

On December 23, 2018, at 1am on Main Street, Buncrana, Gardaí on patrol spotted McLaughlin, who had been ejected from the Plaza. He was highly intoxicated and arrested as Gardaí believed that he was a danger to himself. A fixed charge penalty notice was issued, but was unpaid.

The court heard that McLaughlin has a number of previous convictions. Three of his convictions were for refusal to provide a specimen. Four-year disqualifications were issued in previously in respect of each.

Defence solicitor Mr Ciaran McLaughlin said his client was an 86-year-old man who was a day patient in a nursing unit who was ‘physically and mentally impaired’.

“He is a retired musician and entertain of renown,” Mr McLaughlin said. “His life had been blinded by drink. All of these incidents arise from the demon drink.

“The family has taken the car off him now. He is no longer drinking and is in the full-time care of his family. Hopefully this will be the end of his illustrious legal career.”

Denis McLaughlin was accompanied by a nephew for the court hearing.

“Were it not for his age and his physical condition, I would impose a custodial sentence,” Judge Paul Kelly said.

For repeated incidents in a short space of time, Judge Kelly imposed a four-month prison sentence, suspended for two years in McLaughlin’s own bond of €500 on the condition that he does not drive during the term of the bond.

McLaughlin was disqualified from driving for six years.

Judge Kelly struck out the refusal charge and for the public order offence he fined McLaughlin €100, giving three months to pay.


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