Tyrone man avoids jail after permitting young children to drive HGV on M1 – Armagh I
A Tyrone County resident who allowed two young children to drive a truck he filmed and posted online avoided jail time despite the crimes being committed while he was on suspended sentence following a conviction for harassment.
The boys, one six and the other eight, were driving on the M1 near Dungannon while the defendant filmed them in the passenger seat and then posted it online.
The defendant, who is in his 40s but cannot be named to protect the identity of the children, initially denied allegations of child abuse through intentional abuse and neglect that caused both boys unnecessary suffering or injury.
He also denied aiding and abetting reckless driving, as well as aiding and abetting driving while disqualified for age, and reckless driving at his own risk during the September 6, 2020 incident.
Last June, the defendant appeared in the dock at Dungannon Crown Court, pleading not guilty.
However, during an audit last month, the defense lawyer demanded that his client be retried on three counts, which were accepted.
They included one count each of child abuse, dangerous driving, and aiding and abetting a child in dangerous driving.
The prosecution’s lawyer said that the guilty plea was acceptable, and the rest of the questions could be left in the books.
The court heard police lash out after a video was widely shared on social media showing one boy sitting behind the wheel of a truck with a younger child standing behind him in the cab.
The footage also shows the motorway and other vehicles using it at the time.
Judge Brian Sherrard adjourned the case to prepare reports prior to sentencing, and upon his return today (Thursday) told the defendant: “You have clearly put these children and other road users at a very significant risk of harm. Your actions have shown the utmost irresponsibility. You allowed these boys to drive and filmed it by posting one of the videos online, which led to a police investigation.”
He noted that while the prosecution was primarily about child abuse, it was based on neglect or failure to protect from harm, which “was not extended and could be seen as a misguided decision.” Although you have created a huge risk, fortunately no real harm has been done.”
However, he continued, “Children, unfortunately, are inevitably aware of this and are concerned about the outcome. This is not surprising, given your decision to both record and broadcast your insult, which undoubtedly exacerbates the situation.
It transpired that the defendant was sentenced to a suspended prison sentence for harassing a former partner, handed down just a few months prior to the last offense. He also previously held the record for numerous driving problems, some of which were suspension-related.
Although Judge Sherrard thought that the detention was deserved, he added: “To imprison you would cause real harm to the children, although it is believed that the offender did not.”
Instead, it ordered the defendant to perform 240 hours of community service and did not activate the existing suspended sentence, but ruled that it should be extended for another two years.
In conclusion, Judge Sherrard imposed a 16-month driving ban, stating: “Disqualification is inevitable given the extreme stupidity and irresponsibility of your actions, which you have repeated and posted on the Internet.”
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