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Dangerous driver sent to jail

PUBLISHED: 19:00 24 May 2004 | UPDATED: 04:54 02 March 2010

DRINK driver Mark Jefferies was today given sentences totalling two years in prison after smashing through a Suffolk level crossing while fiddling with his radio.

DRINK driver Mark Jefferies has been jailed after smashing through a Suffolk level crossing while fiddling with his radio.

As revealed in later editions of yesterday's Evening Star, 40-year-old Jefferies was more than twice the legal limit when he narrowly avoided crashing with an oncoming train before slamming into a second crossing gate and driving off.

At his sentencing, Ipswich Crown Court heard police managed to track Jefferies down at his home in Meadow Walk, Benhall, as he had left part of his number plate broken off at the crossing.

Jefferies had admitted drink driving, dangerous driving and endangering the safety of a train at a previous hearing last month before Lowestoft magistrates.

Judge John Devaux today heard Jefferies was driving home on Good Friday this year after drinking four pints of lager at pubs in Saxmundham.

As he approached the town's railway crossing just before 7pm, he did not notice the flashing lights warning of a train coming.

The court heard despite the level of alcohol in his system, he was not watching the road but changing channels on his radio.

Before smashing through the crossing gates, he had to swerve to avoid other cars ahead of him who were waiting at the barrier because he did not have time to stop.

Michael Crimp QC, prosecuting, said in total it would have taken around one minute from the time the lights began flashing to the time the barrier came down. However when Jefferies noticed the warning signs he was too close to stop and burst through the gates, causing damage worth £2,000.

Moments earlier the train's driver had pulled away but had not got above 15 miles per hour as he had seen a dog on the platform and was being very careful. Mr Crimp said the driver had told police had he been travelling at his normal 25 miles per hour he would have hit Jefferies' car.

When the train driver saw Jefferies, the Benhall man was clutching his steering wheel and staring straight ahead. The train finally came to a halt 18-20 feet from the side of Jefferies' car.

Jefferies pulled away, ramming the second barrier before he departed the scene.

When police traced him to his home he was arrested and a breath sample he gave showed an alcohol level of 82 micrograms in 100 millilitres of breath.

The legal limit is 35 micrograms.

Paul Roache, mitigating for Jefferies, said: "The public were put in great danger. Happily there were no injuries. He (Jefferies) does understand the danger passengers were put in. He is deeply ashamed of what he has done."

Judge Devaux sentenced Jefferies to four months in prison for the excess alcohol charge, 10 months in prison for dangerous driving and he gave Jefferies a further 10 months for endangering public safety. All sentences are to run concurrently. Jefferies, who was also convicted of drink driving in 1990, was also disqualified from driving for three years.

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