12 °CTue, 23

Woman escapes six month ban for Moneynick U-turn

A 44-year-old woman from Randalstown has been handed a discretionary short driving ban after the District Judge reluctantly accepted that a longer disqualification would cause her 'exceptional hardship'.

Jolita Balciuniene (44), from The Gables was charged with breaching a traffic sign after she performed a u-turn and forced an oncoming police car to brake.

The court heard that police were travelling city bound on the Moneynick Road from Toome when a BMW driven by the defendant pulled out of stationary traffic and carried out the manoeuvre.

The Prosecution said that she was stopped and cautioned but that the matter could not be dealt with by a fixed penalty as she already had nine points on her licence. The defence confirmed that these related to previous speeding offences.

He went on to explain that on the day of the offence last August, the road was extremely busy due to temporary roadworks and his client needed to get back home to her child.

"It was a foolish decision and she is now before the court in an unenviable position under the totting up policy," he said.

As he prepared to launch his case for special measures, District Judge Oonagh Mullan pointed out that these applications were coming before the court ever more often.

"People should have thought about that," she said.

The defence said that Balciuniene is a single parent to her 11-year-old daughter and is responsible for taking her to and from school and while friends and family could assist in the short term, it wouldn't be an option over a more extended period.

When Ms Mullan queried whether a parent of the defendant's daughter's friends could assist with school runs, he replied that she has a 'limited support network'.

He went on to say that she also needed to be able to get to and from her work in Belfast where she does 18 hours over four days from 10-am-2pm while her daughter is in school.

"Public transport is not a likely solution from Randalstown to Belfast and she lives alone," he said.

"She did not realise it was an offence to make a u-turn and has never been before the court before. It was a momentary lapse of judgement.

Clearly irked, Ms Mullan interjected that 'at this rate, everybody will be trooping in with nine points' to try to avoid the totting up ban.

The defence went on to suggest that these were 'exceptional circumstances' given that she is a single parent. He also advised the court that her partner is not available following domestic issues.

Considering what she had heard, Ms Mullan said: "If this was another speeding offence, I wouldn't have entertained it but I accept what has been said about the roadworks although it was still foolish."

She opted to impose a discretionary shorter six week ban with a £150 fine and a £15 offender's levy.

"The nine points remain," she warned. "If there is anything further you will lose your licence.

"This is a one off."

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