A MOTORIST has been told he is fortunate not to be jailed after punching a driver in a rush hour 'road rage' attack near Toomebridge.
Aaron Deery (41), of Balliniska Heights in Derry/Londonderry, was sentenced for dangerous driving and common assault after previously pleading guilty to the charges.
A prosecutor told Ballymena Magistrates Court that at 5.45pm on Monday July 5 last year the victim was driving a BMW near Randalstown.
The court heard the driver was in 'lane two' behind traffic as he approached an off-slip for Randalstown.
The prosecutor added: "The vehicles in front of him came to a quick stop and he had to respond. The witness then noticed that the car behind him, a Volkswagen Passat, started to flash his lights.
"As he continued on the defendant then undertook the victim, moving in front of him, braking sharply at least three times.
"The victim moved to lane one trying to get away from the defendant who then followed and began to swerve into the victim's vehicle, trying to force him into the crash barrier.
"This continued until the roundabout at Toomebridge where the defendant pulled up in lane two, blocking the lane, and forcing the victim to stop behind him.
"At this point the defendant got out of the vehicle, coming towards the victim's vehicle.
"The defendant then began to punch the window of the victim's car and as the victim tried to explain that the cars in front of him had braked sharply, which was why he had had to brake, the victim lowered the window of his vehicle.
"This resulted in the defendant punching him several times to the face. The defendant also tried to, unsuccessfully, open the driver's door. As a result of the attack the victim sustained a split lip."
Deery then got into his car and left the area but the man was able to get a photo of the defendant before he left the scene.
A prosecutor said, Court News NI can report, there was no damage to the BMW.
The defendant admitted to police his driving fell below "the standard" but denied assaulting the victim in the manner described.
Deery accepted he had undertaken the vehicle but claimed he had not swerved into its path and he said he only got out of his vehicle as he had been "frightened for his life following the 'bad driving' of the victim in the case," the prosecutor said.
The defendant appeared at court via a video link from a solicitor's office.
A defence lawyer accepted it was a "very unpleasant incident".
He said Deery "currently is unemployed although he is a trained chef and has worked in some very well-established restaurants throughout the country".
The solicitor said the defendant was "not working because he is presently caring" for his father.
The lawyer said Deery had displayed a "level of insight" regarding issues he needs to address in relation to "anger management" and "confrontational and aggressive behaviour".
The court was told the defendant expressed regret.
Deputy District Judge Sean O'Hare said Deery did not have the longest record but there were a number of offences "of concern" and he had previously been given Probation.
Handing down a three months jail term, suspended for 18 months, the judge said Deery "can consider himself lucky".
He added: "This is the type of behaviour that must have been very frightening for the other car driver and the pre-sentence report, while it does have a number of positive features, also has a degree of minimisation from your client."
The defendant was also banned from driving for a year and fined £250.
- Main picture: The court heard the incident happened near Toomebridge.