Ballymena Court hears speeding ex-soldier who failed to stop for police claims he had gone into ‘survival mode fearing he was being chased by paramilitaries’

A FORMER soldier who hit 80mph in a midnight police pursuit through a housing estate claimed he had “gone into survival mode” fearing he was under attack by paramilitaries, Ballymena Magistrates has heard.

A prosecution lawyer said the PSNI saw John Loughlin (44), from the Craigyhill area of Larne, driving an Audi though the estate at 11.55pm on August 13 last year.

Police used sirens and horns but Loughlin failed to stop and drove dangerously through the built-up area in an erratic manner and at excess speed “weaving through parked vehicles”.

The car was driven at speeds of “up to 80mph” and mounted kerbs at least three times. As the Audi rounded a corner it burst a tyre on a kerb but continued driving on the rim before going into a dead end and Loughlin ran off.

The defendant was before the court for sentencing on a charge of dangerous driving.

He was also sentenced for other offences. On October 15 last year he was detected using a vehicle without insurance at Sallagh Park Central in Larne and in November 23 last year he used a vehicle without insurance at Regents Park in the town when there was also a driving licence offence.

Via a video link, defence solicitor Sara Edge said the defendant was in her office and was using crutches after being the “victim of a hit-and-run road traffic collision”.

In relation to the pursuit in August 2019, she said the defendant suffered from post traumatic stress disorder arising from his “military background” and he believed he was being “pursued by a number of paramilitary organisations”.

The lawyer said the defendant had been the “victim of a number of terrorist attacks during his military career”.

She said the saving grace in the police pursuit was that it was late, there was no one around and no one was injured.

Ms Edge said the defendant was “relieved” whenever he realised it was the police chasing him.

She said Loughlin’s instructions were that he had gone “into survival mode” which accounted for the manner of his driving.

The lawyer said the defendant’s medication had been changed and it was a “psychotic episode where his PTSD had flared up and he was extremely paranoid”.

The solicitor said the defendant came out of the army early and worked as a “security official” and a reference showed he was a “valued member” of the Factory Community Forum in Larne.

She said the reference described the defendant as being a “role model” for young people in the Larne area where he had been “raising awareness of the negative impact of anti-social behaviour”.

District Judge Nigel Broderick said he found it “somewhat ironic” that the defendant was described as a “role model” when he was driving through an estate at 80mph and mounting kerbs.

He told the defendant it had been “very dangerous behaviour” and added: “You are down as a role model but in my view you are anything but a role model”.

The judge gave Loughlin a four months prison term, suspended for a year; banned him from driving for a year until re-tested, and put him on Probation “to try to address these problems you have”.

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