Court hears drunk man stole cherry picker in Ballymena

A drunk man who crashed a cherry picker near the Fairhill shopping centre in Ballymena which he had stolen over a mile away in the Harryville area of the town claimed he wanted to kill himself by coming into contact with power lines, a court heard on Tuesday (October 19).

Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 3:00 pm

Zoltan Dobie (49), of no fixed address but formerly of Drumtara in Ballymena, admitted charges of taking a cherry picker without authority and driving whilst unfit at Thomas Street in the town on Sunday night, October 17.

The defendant appeared via video link from Antrim at Antrim Magistrates Court, sitting in Ballymena.

A police officer told the court that at 10.25pm on Sunday police saw a vehicle being driven without lights and when they got closer they saw a man operating a cherry picker outside the Fairhill Shopping Centre.

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The vehicle mounted a kerb onto a footpath and nearly collided with the entrance to Cafe Nero. Police approached the vehicle and told the male to turn it off and he did so and “climbed down”. Officers recognised Dobie “from previous dealings”. His eyes were glazed and he smelt of intoxicating liquor. He had an alcohol in breath reading of 61 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath - the legal limit is 35. The officer said Dobie said he had “driven the cherry picker from a building site in the Harryville area”. The PSNI man said that during an interview Dobie indicated that he “had taken the cherry picker with the intent of putting it up to a power line in an attempt to commit suicide”.

Defence solicitor Stewart Ballentine said Dobie suffers from “difficulties with substance abuse and alcohol”. The lawyer said Dobie had taken the vehicle after being in “very low mood”. Mr Ballentine said it was a “cry for help” as Dobie had health issues including “ADHD” and had “difficulties obtaining benefits”. The solicitor said now he has sobered up the defendant “realised how serious this could have been not only for himself but the public and thankfully nobody was injured by his actions”. He said Dobie was a “skilled roofer and scaffolder” who had not been working due to his health difficulties and “lockdown”. Mr Ballentine added: “There are people out there willing to help this man”.

Jailing Dobie for six months, District Judge Nigel Broderick said the defendant was on Probation and in breach of a suspended sentence. He said “stealing” a cherry picker when drunk was serious and the defendant “could have caused untold damage or injury”.

Dobie was also banned from driving for 18 months.

Bail of £500 was fixed for appeal but the judge ordered that the defendant not be released in the mean time because there was no suitable address and there was a risk of further offences.