FORMER state witness April Collins has been banned from driving for 12 years and warned that she will go to jail if she is caught driving while disqualified again.
The 26-year-old mother of four was halfway through a four-year ban when she was stopped by Sgt David Callanan in Limerick last year.
The former partner of convicted Limerick gangster Ger Dundon pleaded guilty to nine road traffic offences at Limerick District Court yesterday, including a charge of driving while disqualified.
Earlier this year, 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 rugby player Shane Geoghegan.
She has been under 24-hour garda protection since she first turned state witness against those responsible for Mr Geoghegan's death.
Before imposing a six-month suspended jail sentence, Judge Eugene O'Kelly said Collins had "flagrantly ignored" previous court orders of disqualification.
In his evidence, Sgt Callanan said he stopped Collins at Hyde Road, Limerick, at 11.55am last November 10.
Her car tax was out of date, she admitted she had no insurance and she failed to produce the appropriate documentation to Roxboro garda station within the required 10-day period.
The court heard Collins was disqualified for four years in September 2010, and in June 2012 she was fined €300 for numerous road traffic summonses.
Judge O'Kelly was told she had three previous convictions for driving while disqualified, nine for driving without insurance and eight for driving with no licence.
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 last year.
She said that on the most recent occasion, last November, she had her young baby in the car with a severe temperature.
She told the court her client was well aware she was at "severe risk' of a custodial sentence, but urged Judge O'Kelly to put it back on Collins to be responsible, adding: "If she ends up in prison, it is by her own doing."
The judge was told Collins is caring for her four children aged from 16 months to eight years and that her current partner, who is father to one of the children, is currently serving a prison sentence.
Judge O'Kelly disqualified Collins for 12 years and imposed a six-month jail sentence suspended for two years.
She was also fined €500 for driving without insurance and ordered to be of good behaviour for two years.