Northern Ireland

Dean Nesbitt cleared 11th night Belfast driving incident

Bonfire in Coolfin Street
Image caption The incident happened at a bonfire in Coolfin Street

A driver who knocked down a disabled woman near an 11th night bonfire in Belfast has been acquitted of causing her injury by dangerous driving.

However Dean Nesbitt, 31, was jailed for 10 months for driving while disqualified, no insurance and leaving the scene of the accident.

The incident occurred on Belfast's Donegall Road on 12 July 2010.

Nesbitt had maintained he felt in fear of his life after being surrounded by a crowd shouting sectarian abuse.

He had pleaded guilty to the lesser charges before his Belfast Crown Court trial began.

On Thursday, a jury deliberated for an hour and 15 minutes before returning with their unanimous acquittal on the more serious charge following the two-week trial.

Nesbitt, originally from the Taughmonagh estate but with an address at Carn Rise in Newtownabbey, had always denied causing grievous bodily injury to the wheelchair-bound woman by dangerous driving.

The woman, who suffers from Guillain-Barre syndrome which causes her immune system to attack parts of her own nervous system, was knocked over as Nesbitt sped from the scene suffered multiple fractures to a leg in the incident.

Giving evidence on his own behalf, Nesbitt accepted that he was a disqualified driver but claimed he was only driving his partner's car to get to her in the west of the city as she was seven-months pregnant at the time and was complaining of having stomach cramps.

"I thought if they get me out of the car I was dead, there was no doubt about it because they thought I was a Catholic," Nesbitt told the court.

As well as the 10-month jail term, Judge Tom Burgess banned Nesbitt from driving for a year telling him: "No matter what the circumstances were, he knows he should not have been behind the wheel of a car... he certainly knows that now."

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