By Garrett Hargan

A man accused of crashing into parked cars in Derry at the weekend could have killed someone, a local judge has said.

Kevin Harkin, 32, of Rossnagalliagh in the city, has been charged with nine offences arising from a motoring incident on the Abercorn Road at the weekend.  Those include driving while unfit, aggravated vehicle taking and causing damage, driving while disqualified and failing to stop or report an accident.

The court heard that at 5.15am on Saturday morning past police attended the Abercorn Road after it was reported that a blue BMW car was abandoned.  A police officer said both the driver and passenger’s airbags were deployed and there was ‘blood on the steering wheel and key’.

A female witness described hearing a ‘loud bang’ before allegedly seeing the defendant’s vehicle travelling down Abercorn Road.  Damage was caused to the offside front tyre of one vehicle and the BMW collided with another parked vehicle.

CCTV cameras captured a male entering the vehicle and attempting to turn the key – Harkin matched the description of this man.  The PSNI officer told the court that when arrested the defendant was ‘bleeding from his right hand’.

Checks with An Garda Síochána showed the vehicle was registered to a Mr McBride and attempts were made to contact him.  At the scene Harkin blew a preliminary breath test reading of 4mg per 100ml of breath.

The defendant was charged with various offences and at the police station refused to provide a blood or urine sample and gave a ‘no comment’ interview.  The officer said Harkin was before the court for similar offences in December before being released from prison in February.

It was submitted that the 32-year-old had been disqualified from driving for a period of ten years.

His record is ‘appalling for road traffic offences’, the officer explained, and bail was objected to due to a what he deemed to be a ‘high risk of reoffending’.  It was ‘fortunate’ no members of the public were injured during the incident and the officer put that down to the time it occurred.

Defence solicitor Seamus Quigley said CCTV footage showed the person police suspect to be the defendant getting into the vehicle ‘after the accident’.  He added that the ‘usual forensic enquiries’ will follow along with a ‘trawl of CCTV’ around the town which could take some time to bring together.

A bail address at Hawkin Street in the city was put forward and Mr Quigley suggested various bail conditions could be put in place to assuage any concerns the court may have.

Public safety

District Judge Barney McElholm said the defendant appeared in court twice in 2017 for drink driving offences and most recently served a custodial sentence for driving while unfit.  Harkin was released on February 2 and ‘two months later is behind the wheel again’, he added.

“Time will what can and can’t be proven in relation to the collision.  Whatever happened beforehand, this man then attempted to drive the vehicle.

“He gave a ‘no comment’ interview, I can understand those tactics in certain circumstances but it was put to him he has done all of this and he made no comment.  It does not impress me at all.”

He added: “This man is quite frankly a danger to the public.  There’s a risk of further offending, and a risk of further offending that could kill someone.

“The safety of the public takes precedence over any balancing exercise.”

Bail was refused and the defendant remanded in custody to appear in court by way of video link on May 10.

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