FORMER state witness April Collins has been banned from driving for 12 years and warned she will go to jail if she is caught driving while disqualified again.
The 26-year-old mother of four was half way through a four year road ban when she was stopped by Sargent David Callanan in Limerick city last year
The former partner of convicted Limerick criminal Ger Dundon, pleaded guilty to nine road traffic offences at Limerick District Court today including a charge of driving while disqualified.
Earlier this year Ms Collins gave evidence in the trial of her ex partner's brother John Dundon, that ultimately led to him being convicted of the murder of Garryowen rugby player Shane Geoghegan.
The 26-year-old has been under 24 hour garda protection since she first turned state witness against those responsible for Shane Geoghegan's murder.
Before imposing a six month suspended jail sentence Judge Eugene O'Kelly said the mother of four had "flagrantly ignored" previous court orders of disqualification.
In his evidence Sgt Callanan said he stopped Ms Collins at Hyde Road, Limerick at 11.55am on November 10th 2012.
The 26-year-old whose car tax was out of date admitted she had no insurance and failed to produce the appropriate documentation to Roxboro Garda station within the required ten day period.
The court heard Ms Collins was disqualified from driving for four years in September 2010 and in June 2012 she was fined €300 for numerous road traffic summonses including driving while disqualified.
Judge O'Kelly was told the 26-year-old had a total of three previous convictions for driving while disqualified, nine for driving without insurance and eight previous convictions for driving with no driving licences.
The Judge said Ms Collins was "exceedingly lucky" in June 2012 that she did not receive an "imminent custodial sentence" adding by the following November she was caught driving again while disqualified.
Solicitor Sarah Ryan said the state had accepted the duress her client was under when she was stopped in connection with the offences before the court in June 2012.
She said on the most recent occasion in November 2012, the mother of four had her young baby in the car with a severe temperature.
"Her first instinct was to bring her child to her mother's house," Ms Ryan said.
The solicitor told the court her client was well aware that she was at "severe risk' of a custodial sentence but urged Judge O'Kelly to put it back on Ms Collins to be responsible adding: "if she ends up in prison it is by her own doing".
The Judge was told Ms Collins is caring for her four children aged from 16 months to 8 years and that her current partner who is father to one of the children is currently serving a prison sentence.
Judge O'Kelly disqualified the 26-year-old from driving for 12 years and imposed a six month jail sentence which he suspended for two years.
He said the message must be sent out to people who consistently breach court orders that a jail term is inevitable.
Judge O'Kelly warned Ms Collins that he would activate her suspended sentence and also warned she would be facing an additional sentence if there were further breaches of disqualification orders.
The 26-year-old was also fined €500 for driving without insurance and ordered to be of good behaviour for two years.
By Kathryn Hayes