A SLOVAKIAN man caught driving whilst banned in Ballymena whilst his four children aged under seven were not wearing seat belts, claimed he been evacuating them in an emergency after his family was warned to 'get out' of their home or face being "removed in coffins"amidst allegations of a race hate campaign.
Filip Rac (38), of Waveney Road in Ballymena, was detected by police at the town's Cushendall Road, the town's Magistrates Court (main picture) was told.
A prosecutor said that on February 11 last year police saw four children aged seven years old or below were without "suitable restraints" in Rac's car.
He was not covered by insurance and he was a disqualified driver, having been banned from driving five days earlier, on February 6, 2020, for six months and been given a suspended sentence.
A defence solicitor told the court this week he appreciated the seriousness of the situation but said there was a "serious background".
Apart from motoring matters, the lawyer said the defendant had never been in "any trouble with police in Ballymena".
He added: "It appears, however, for some reason, certain people in Ballymena have taken umbrage towards his wife and four young children".
He said a pre-sentence report showed "they had been the victims of racial harassment, indeed threats to have them burned out".
At the centre of the campaign, the solicitor claimed, were two people who were once neighbours of the Rac family.
The lawyer said he previously had cause to write to those "two parties about their behaviour".
He added: "It appears wherever they go those individuals, or connected family members, feel it their duty to cause racial harassment to this family and they have had to move several times".
Regarding the driving incident, the lawyer said Rac had put the car up for sale after the earlier road ban and whilst at work he received a phone call from his wife in a "hysterical condition indicating a number of people had come to her door".
The lawyer said the family was told they "had to get out" or they would be "removed in coffins," Court News NI can report.
The solicitor added that in the "heat of the moment" Rac returned home and took his family "out of that situation" and whilst leaving the area he was stopped by police, the court heard.
The solicitor said Rac no longer has any "temptation" to drive as the car has now been sold.
The lawyer accepted the suspended sentence had been breached but he asked the judge to take into account the "serious position" Rac and his family had been in.
The solicitor said police have been investigating "incidents of racial harassment against him and his family".
District Judge Nigel Broderick told Rac he appreciated "there may have been a background to this but you do need to obey the orders of the court and you seem to have some difficulty doing that".
As a "direct alternative" to jail and to "maybe help you mend your ways" the judge said he was putting him on Probation for a year along with 100 hours of Community Service. Rac was also banned from driving for a year.
For not having his children seat belted the defendant was fined £200.