Northern Ireland

Patrick McErlean: Former Magherafelt District Council chairman jailed over crash

A former chairman of Magherafelt District Council who was involved in a crash that resulted in a six-year-old boy sustaining a severe eye injury has been sent to jail for four months.

Patrick McErlean, 72, from Ballymacombs Road in Bellaghy, was warned by police about driving four days before the collision.

This was after blacking out and hitting the back of another motorist's vehicle.

Prior to both incidents, he had stopped taking medication for epilepsy.

Describing the crash in which the young boy was injured as "horrific", the judge said it was "fortunate" that both he and his mother were not killed in the collision, which occurred on the Castle Road in Randalstown, County Antrim, on 30 October, 2012.

Antrim Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard that four days before the incident, McErlean had collided three times with the rear of another vehicle on the Melmont Road in Sion Mills.

When he was questioned by police, McErlean said he had a medical condition and that he had no recollection of the incident.

Warning

He was told by a police officer not to drive until he had spoken with his GP - but despite this warning, McErlean continued to drive and four days later caused the collision in Randalstown.

A defence barrister said McErlean had been a teacher, a mental health nurse, a farmer and a one-time chairman of Magherafelt District Council.

Revealing his client was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy in 2009, he said McErlean stopped taking his medication in July 2012 "on the basis he was seizure-free".

The lawyer also spoke of the pensioner's "unblemished" driving record over 53 years, and said the collision which injured the child was "not an example of a man taking a deliberate risk".

Citing the incident in Sion Mills four days prior to the collision and the fact McErlean had stopped taking his epilepsy medication, the judge handed McErlean a 12-month sentence - four months of which will be served in custody, with the remaining eight months spent on supervised licence upon his release.