AN over-the-limit driver who crashed a van into a wall in Larne had legally held firearms in the vehicle.
At Antrim Magistrates Court, sitting in Ballymena, District Judge Nigel Broderick told Declan Larkin (39): "The alcohol and driving offence of course is a serious matter but even more serious, and an aggravating feature, is you being in possession of firearms in the vehicle".
The defendant was sentenced for driving a vehicle at Edward Avenue in Larne with excess alcohol; absence of insurance and having two shotguns and a rifle together with ammunition 'in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse'.
The court heard a van had crashed into a wall at 12.40am on November 3 last year.
The defendant, previously with an address listed as Ballysculllion Road in Bellaghy but now at School Road near Drumnaquoile in County Down, had an alcohol in breath reading of 69 - the legal limit is 35.
The prosecutor said the defendant was beside the van and there was a strong smell of liquor.
The defendant told police he had been driving and he was unsteady on his feet with glazed eyes.
The defendant failed a preliminary breath test and was arrested.
The defendant told police there his legally-held firearms were in the vehicle and the firearms were recovered by police.
When interviewed he admitted all offences, saying he had separated from his partner and was staying with a friend in Larne.
The prosecutor said Larkin told police, at the time, he was to "travel to Russia for work".
The court heard the firearms were currently being held by police.
Judge Broderick recalled an earlier hearing in the case and said: "He said he had gone to a friend's house and then I didn't believe the account. He was travelling back allegedly and I held that he shouldn't have had the guns in the back of his car regardless of where he was going".
The prosecutor said the defendant believed insurance had been in place.
The defendant told police he had "all his belongings, following his split, in the van".
She said Larkin said he was going to take the firearms to a shooting supplies business "where they would be secured until his return".
A defence barrister said the driving charges had been guilty pleas at an early opportunity
He added that Larkin "had been out drinking with a friend".
"The firearms had been in the back of the van locked. Your Worship's criticism of all of that was an intoxicated person, particularly one getting back into a vehicle, which is itself a problem, should not be in possession of firearms, and the whole thing just lacked the responsibility the court expected of a responsible firearms holder in that immediate situation".
Judge Broderick handed down a four months prison term, suspended for two years; banned the defendant from driving for a year and fined him £500.
The judge added: "It is a serous matter to carry a firearm in such a manner, especially when intoxicated".
He said whether the defendant would be allowed to retain the firearms would be dealt with by the "appropriate authorities".