Northern Ireland news

Man found not guilty of causing fatal crash is disqualified for drink driving five months later

Jonathan Ferguson leaves Dungannon Crown Court last year after a jury found him not guilty of causing the death of a woman in a vehicle that crashed into a tree

A man found not guilty of causing a fatal car crash as a pedestrian has been disqualified for drink driving on a nearby road.

Just five months after being cleared, Jonathan William Thomas Ferguson was detected in Cookstown at almost twice the legal alcohol limit and with a flat tyre.

Formerly with an address at Elm Drive, Moneymore but now of Milburn Close, Cookstown, he was found not guilty of manslaughter by a majority verdict after a landmark trial last year.

It had been alleged he was walking on the unlit Moneymore Road in Cookstown during the early hours of April 12 2015 and attempted to stop a car, which swerved hard to avoid him, mounted a grass verge and smashed into a tree.

The front seat passenger, Bernie McNicholl, died at the scene.

Ferguson was found standing in a gateway and told police he had fallen asleep in a field, having consumed a vast amount of alcohol.

He had been walking home from his stag night and insisted he had no involvement in the collision.

After a trial at Dungannon Crown Court lasting almost two weeks, Ferguson, then aged 30, was cleared of causing Mrs Nicholl's death.

However, he found himself back yesterday in the same courthouse, this time in Dungannon Magistrates Court, after a drink-driving detection on March 10 a short distance from his home.

Police had received reports of an erratic driver on the Moneymore dual carriageway and discovered Ferguson behind the wheel.

A defence lawyer described the case as “unfortunate”, saying his client had a previously clear record.

He said the postman had gone out for a few drinks after work with colleagues and then consumed more at home. He had gone out briefly and was detected on the short return journey.

However, when the alcohol reading was described as “not the highest”, District Judge John Meehan said it was “substantial, and just shy of double the limit”.

Fines totalling £300 were imposed with a driving disqualification for 12 months, to be reduced by three months on completion of a course.

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