A BANGOR businessman who was over the drink limit when police found him asleep in his Porsche car in the town has been banned from driving for 18 months and fined £750.
Clifford McChesney (52), a kitchen fitting business owner, of Lyle Road, was found guilty of being in charge of a vehicle in the Groomsport Road area in the early hours of Saturday July 17 last year.
He had contested the case at Newtownards Magistrates Court (main picture) and although he admitted being in the car he argued there was never any "likelihood" of him driving the vehicle.
A prosecutor said after police received a report of a man sleeping in a car an officer wakened the defendant who was in the driver seat of the Porsche around 2.30am.
The car keys were present and there was an alcohol in breath reading of 69 - the legal limit is 35.
In the witness box, the defendant said he had gone out for some drinks with a friend in Bangor and had walked there.
At the time he had been staying in a "garden room" at his home because his wife was in the main house looking after their daughter who had Covid and he wished to be remain Covid-free to enable him to continue working with his kitchen business.
He told the court he walked home around 11.15pm on July 16 but was unable to gain entry to the garden room because a side gate was bolted.
He said the front door was also bolted inside and when the house was in darkness he didn't wish to waken the occupants.
The defendant told the court if he had knocked the door their dogs would have gone "mad" and wakened his daughter who was feeling "rough" and he "chose not" to phone, text or 'Facetime' his wife to open the gate.
He said, Court News NI can report, it would have been "tricky" to climb the gate.
He added: "I thought I will go to sleep in the car".
The defendant said the car was parked away from his home as would often be the case because there was not enough parking space at his house.
A prosecution lawyer claimed "not wanting to waken the house" was not a "credible explanation" as it was not too late around 11.15pm for the defendant to have phoned his wife.
The defendant's wife Karen McChesney told the court that after her dogs had been in the garden she "didn't realise" she had locked the gate.
A defence lawyer said there was "no likelihood" of the defendant driving and there had been no attempt to drive for the several hours when the defendant was in it.
Convicting the defendant of the charge, Deputy District Judge Austin Kennedy said it was "clear" the defendant was in charge of the vehicle.
He said the "natural thing" for the defendant to have done would have been to make a phone call, or send a text, or Facetime to his wife.
The judge added: "The fact that the house was locked-up is certainly not the reason he was in this vehicle. There is obviously some other reason why he was in the vehicle".
The defence lawyer said if the defendant lost his licence it would have a "significant impact" on his business.
The defendant was banned from driving for 18 months and fined £750. He had bail fixed in the sum of £500 and is permitted to drive in the meantime.