Northern Ireland news

Fireman banned from driving after speeding and going wrong way on roundabout

Prosecutors said Alan O'Neill was located in bushes after running from a van

A "high ranking" fireman being pursued by police drove at speed and went the wrong way on a roundabout, a court has heard.

Prosecutors said Alan O'Neill was later located in bushes after running from a van in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim.

The 40-year-old had been suffering from stress and exhaustion following efforts dealing with a major fire in the Mourne Mountains, a judge was told.

ONeill, of Glenmount Road in Newtownabbey, was banned from getting behind the wheel for 12 months after admitting dangerous driving and failing to stop for police.

Belfast Magistrates Court heard police followed his Renault van as it travelled on the M2 motorway just after midnight on May 14.

Despite signaling for the vehicle to stop, it continued onto the Shore Road and then the Mill Road, braking and reversing at speed after approaching retail park barriers.

At one point the van was travelling at an estimated 60mph in a 30mph zone, according to the prosecution.

During the pursuit it went the wrong way on a roundabout and headed into the car park at a nearby Lidl store.

A Crown lawyer said O'Neill got out and ran towards bushes, where he was located by a police dog.

The incident was described as a "complete aberration" for a man of "exemplary" standing in the community.

"He's been in employment in a high-ranking (role) with the Fire Service for over 20 years," a defence solicitor said.

Deputy District Judge Trevor Browne was told O'Neill had been dealing with extreme stress at the time.

"Weeks prior to this event he had been working on the Mourne fires, working long hours, sleep deprived and suffering from exhaustion," his lawyer submitted.

An argument between O'Neill and his partner earlier that night was cited as another potential factor in his actions.

The solicitor acknowledged there may be "collateral consequences" for his employment, which involves driving a rescue vehicle.

"He's unsure of his future with the Fire Service," she added.

Disqualifying O'Neill from driving for 12 months, and imposing £400 in fines, Mr Browne expressed hope that it will not impact on his job.

"The pressure this man was under, both professionally and personally, was extremely hard to manage," the judge said.

"He is clearly someone of much merit and benefit to the community."

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Northern Ireland news