Disgraced former solicitor escapes jail despite driving while banned

A disgraced solicitor once jailed for professional misconduct has narrowly escaped jail after he admitted driving while banned.

Antrim Magistrates’ Court heard that on November 1 last year police stopped the Rover car being driven by 58-year-old Gavin McCartan, and although he confirmed ownership of the vehicle, police checks revealed him as a banned driver.

During a short roadside interview McCartan, from the Ladyhill Road in Antrim, admitted he knew he was banned but had taken the car to go to work in a hospital kitchen.

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He pleaded guilty to driving while disqualified and without insurance.

During a plea in mitigation, his defence solicitor said there had been a “tragic fall from grace” for the former solicitor who “would love to be back doing what he had been doing in the past”.

That fall from grace landed McCartan in prison in October 2004 with a six-month jail term when he admitted failing to raise suspicions about a £70,000 cash deposit in a conveyancing matter where he was acting on behalf of career criminal Cecil Walsh.

He was the first solicitor to be dealt with under new proceeds of crime legislation at the time.

McCartan had pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to disclose information on January 8 2001 in that he suspected Walsh to be involved in drug trafficking.

He also admitted that between November 9-18 2000, he provided the solicitors of the bungalow constructor with the building agreement which he knew to be false and so induced them to continue with the conveyancing transaction.

Although jailed for six months initially, McCartan served six weeks in prison when the Court of Appeal decided to suspend the rest of his sentence.

District Judge Peter King on Tuesday told McCartan he “takes an extremely dim view of driving whilst disqualified especially on foot of a drink driving conviction”.

He said while the case crossed the custody threshold and while “normally I would be considering either an immediate or suspended custodial sentence,” the judge added there was a “sympathetic and empathetic probation report”.

In light of that, Judge King imposed a two-year driving ban along with 100 hours community service and a 12-month probation order.