Councillor to appeal

PUBLISHED: 13:00 12 December 2001 | UPDATED: 11:01 03 March 2010

AN IPSWICH town councillor who failed to stop after an accident and then refused to give a breath specimen following allegations of drink driving said today he would appeal against his convictions.

AN IPSWICH town councillor who failed to stop after an accident and then refused to give a breath specimen following allegations of drink driving said today he would appeal against his convictions.

Shamed John Cooper, former leader of the conservative party at town hall and now liberal democratic representative for Broomhill careered into a colleague's car and then fled the scene, claiming to police that he had not realised he had hit another vehicle, a court heard.

South East Suffolk magistrates sitting in Ipswich yesterday found him guilty of careless driving, failing to stop after an accident, failing to report an accident and failing to provide a specimen of breath for a drink drive test.

But outside the court Cooper, 55, of Valley Road described the verdict as "harsh" and said he would be seeking legal advice with a view to appealing against his convictions.

The court heard how Harvey Emms >was sitting in the living room of his Hervey Street home shortly after 8pm on April 15 when he heard a loud skidding sound followed by a thud.

He rushed outside and found Cooper sitting in a white Seat Marbella motorcar which was rolling backwards towards his house. The engine had stalled and the car was at right angles to the road.

Mr Emms, a planning officer for Ipswich Borough Council, told the court that he recognised Cooper from work.

"I think he (Cooper) was a bit shocked. He didn't seem to be particularly coherent to me. He put his pipe in his mouth, which didn't make it easier to understand what he was saying. He was looking flushed as if he had been drinking and he was mumbling," he said.

"All he said to me was that there was no problem, the car had cut out and there hadn't been an accident."

Cooper drove off and it was only then that Mr Emms noticed damage to the rear and side of his blue Citroen Saxo, parked opposite his house, which he told the court had not been there before. White painted on the vehicle matched that of the car Cooper was driving, the court later heard.

"I was alarmed because he (Cooper) had driven off without verifying if there had been an accident," he said, adding that he then contacted police.

Joanne Eley, for the prosecution, told the court that Cooper manipulated events in a bid to avoid prosecution.

He left his car some distance from his home and initially ignored the highly visible presence of police officers waiting outside his house to question him on his return, it was alleged.

The father-of-two arrived at the door with a glass of vodka in his hand, refused on three occasions to provide police with breath specimen, became irate and was finally arrested for refusing to provide a specimen and taken to the police station.

At the station he did concede to a breath test and was not charged with any offence of excess alcohol, the court heard.

Responding to questions from Richard O'Sullivan, for the defence, Cooper told the court that he had been confused by the police officer's repeated requests for a breath test. According to his understanding of events he had not hit another vehicle and did not understand why a breath test was required.

He felt dizzy and disorientated after a difficult day in which he claimed the brakes had failed on the car he was driving, causing him to swerve across Hervey Road, he said.

He had run out of petrol, which meant he had to abandon the car, which belonged to his 17-year-old son, and was also side-tracked by concerns about his 96-year-old aunt who lives with him and who he cares for on a full time basis.

Chairman of the bench Bernard Hindes however said that magistrates did not believe his version of events. They fined him £460 in total for the four offences plus £130 costs and endorsed his licence with eight penalty points. They did not revoke his driving licence.

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