Army captain's drink-drive shame

AN ARMY captain avoided a prison sentence for driving almost four times the legal alcohol limit, a court has heard.

Lizzie Parry

AN ARMY captain avoided a prison sentence for driving almost four times the legal alcohol limit, a court has heard.

At South East Suffolk Magistrates Court in Ipswich, yesterday, Jozef Biela, of Kirby Close was fined �3,000 and was banned from driving for three years.

He was found to have 134 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, the legal limit of is micrograms, when he was arrested on Wednesday, February 25.

The court heard he had been visiting a friend on Jackson Road, Newbourne, near Woodbridge on the evening of the incident.

The 54-year-old businessman, of Polish nationality, had pleaded guilty to driving a motor vehicle with an alcohol level above the legal limit on April 20, at the first opportunity.

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Dino Barricella, in mitigation, said his client had driven a very short distance on what he thought was a private road.

“The main mitigating factor is the fact Mr Biela believed he was driving on a private road,” he said.

“His good character is very important to him, he has no previous convictions and he has references from a number of very respectable people, including a very favourable letter from his commanding officer.

“By virtue of the fact he has pleaded guilty he has experienced a loss of character, which he takes very seriously, and sees as punishment in itself.”

He added that Suffolk County Council had confirmed it was a private road.

Andrea Reynolds, prosecuting said that although it was a private road, there was a public footpath that crossed it and three businesses operated on the road.

At a previous hearing last week, the court decided Biela would not face custodial sentence but would face punishment by community order or fine.

At the hearing yesterday Mr Barricella argued a curfew and community service were unrealistic punishments for his client.

He said as an army captain he frequently attends functions in London and due to business commitments he is sometimes required to work abroad, mainly in Poland. As such a curfew would be difficult to adhere to.

In addition Biela has been diagnosed with anxiety and depression by a doctor and so would find community service difficult to undertake.

Chairman of the magistrates, John Horton said the sentence fell outside the range for the offence imposed by the legal guidelines and as such he was required to give reasons.

In total Biela was ordered to pay the �3,000 fine as well as �95 costs and a �15 victim surcharge.

His 36 month driving ban could be reduced to 27 months if he completes a driving course offered by the magistrates.