Paul John Doherty jailed over Benone beach crash

A drunk driver who hit a mother and her four-year-old daughter on a County Londonderry beach has been jailed for 21 months.

Paul John Doherty from Ballynahone, Fahan, County Donegal, was involved in a high-speed police chase after the incident last summer.

He pleaded guilty to seven motoring offences on Benone beach and at Seacoast Road on 21 July 2013.

The child sustained a broken collar-bone and bruising.

Appearing at Londonderry Crown Court, Doherty admitted driving his BMW car at speed, doing hand-brake turns and forcing members of the public to run out of his way.

However, Diane Wilkinson and her four-year-old daughter Abbie were struck by Doherty's vehicle.

The court heard that just seconds before the impact, Mrs Wilkinson instinctively grabbed her daughter and swept her into her arms.

In addition to the fracture, the child also sustained a black eye, cut and bruises to her legs. Her mother was badly bruised and received injuries to her knees and feet.

Both mother and daughter were detained in hospital overnight.

Police were called to the beach and began to pursue Doherty, who forced on-coming vehicles to swerve to avoid colliding with his car.

A police helicopter was deployed and the car was found at the rear of a house on the Barnailt Road, between Limavady and Claudy. Its number plates had been removed.

The police found Doherty hiding in a field and arrested him. He later admitted the offences.

The judge told the court he had read a victim impact report and said the entire Wilkinson family had been traumatised by what had happened at Benone beach.

He added that Doherty had two previous convictions for dangerous driving in Buncrana, County Donegal, the first in 2003 and the second on Christmas Day 2005.

Both of them involved him performing hand-brake turns at speed.

The judge said it was an appalling incident in which Doherty, who was twice over the legal alcohol limit, engaged in driving that was both outrageous and obviously dangerous on a public beach, where many families and young children were enjoying a period of good weather.

After his release, Doherty will serve a further 21 months on licence. He was also disqualified from driving for seven years

Following Doherty's jailing, Diane Wilkinson and her husband called on the local authority organisation responsible for Benone beach to implement adequate road safety measures, to prevent people driving at speed on the beach.

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