A BELCOO man has been jailed for his 23rd driving whilst disqualified conviction – the highest number the judge has ever encountered – which was committed just six days after sentencing for similar offences.
Appearing in the dock of Dungannon Crown Court was Stephen Thomas Hilland (38) of Gardrum Road, Belcoo who admitted his latest spate of offending, which included driving without insurance.
Police were on patrol in the Sligo Road area of Enniskillen on February 25, when they observed a white Ford Transit van they believed was uninsured.
On being pulled over, Hilland identified himself and checks showed he was disqualified from driving.
It would later emerge this offence was committed six days after a similar conviction for which he received a nine month prison sentence, but had been released on bail pending appeal.
In that instance he was disqualified for five years.
Prosecution counsel told the court Hilland has 115 previous convictions of which 61 relate to motoring offences, with 22 for driving whilst disqualified.
Defence counsel said, “My client’s record is atrocious and there is no other word for it. He recognises he is a repeat offender and something needs to be done. He is serving a life sentence by instalment.”
However the defence contended, “We have reached a crossroads. Does he deserve an opportunity to change? He is well aware many with think not. Either he has that chance or he goes back to prison and enters the cycle again. He accepts he has led a chaotic lifestyle and wants to sort himself out.”
Judge Stephen Fowler QC commented, “Nothing to date handed down by the courts has prevented him from re-offending.”
He continued: “Of the records to come before me, this is the most prolific for re-offending as a disqualified driver.
Alternatives have been tried in the past, including probation many times, but he always seems to reoffend before the order is complete. He choses to drive.
He brings all of this on himself. He must face the consequences.”
Handing down a prison term of 14 months of which half will be spent on supervised licence, Judge Fowler concluded, “This is the worst case of repeated driving whilst disqualified I have come across.”
He also imposed a further disqualification of five years.
Posted: 7:06 pm July 12, 2018