Felixstowe: Drink driver spared jail despite being caught four-and-a-half times the limit
- Credit: Contributed
Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner has branded a court’s decision to give a suspended jail term to a drink-driver who already had a previous conviction for the crime as “extraordinary”.
Anthony Gill, 38, received a suspended prison sentence after being stopped by police in Felixstowe on September 7 while more than four times the limit. Six years ago, he also received a suspended sentence for drink-driving.
PCC Tim Passmore said the punishment, passed by South East Suffolk magistrates’ court, “sends out a very poor signal”, while anti-drink drive campaigners also called for tougher sentences.
Mr Passmore said: “I find this decision extraordinary. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is totally unacceptable and the constabulary is very clear in that message.
“While I respect it is the magistrate’s decision, as a general principle I feel this sends out a very poor signal.”
Gill, who admitted drink-driving, was handed a sentence of 24 weeks suspended for two years on Wednesday despite recording a reading of 153 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35mcg. He was also disqualified from driving for five years.
The court was told that Gill, from Butley Road, Felixstowe, had been drinking for 10 hours with a wedding party at the Kesgrave Bell and Kesgrave Community Centre before he got in his car to drive home, having consumed around 12 pints of lager.
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Magistrate David Broughton said: “This offence is so serious that custody is warranted. Your alcohol rate was extremely high and showed a blatant disregard for the safety of other road users.
“This was a close-run thing Mr Gill. You came extremely close to going through the door into custody today.”
Police stopped Gill at traffic lights in St Andrew’s Road, Felixstowe, after he inadvertently turned his rear windscreen wipers on and clipped the kerb after a turn.
Campaigner Michelle Luetchford, whose sister Emma was killed by a drink driver in 2009, said: “If he didn’t learn the first time, it’s not going to do anything a second time.
“He could have killed somebody and that would have been a whole different story. The sentences should be tougher all round. He should be severely punished.”
In mitigation, Hugh Rowlands said Gill did not plan on driving home from the wedding as he planned to go with his partner, but she was unable to attend due to a sudden family bereavement.
He added that Gill, a manager of a section of a software company who earns more than £50,000 a year, had “never really recovered” from the death of his father in 2011 and would lose his job if sent to jail.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Drink driving can have devastating consequences which is why the maximum sentence for causing death by drink driving is rightly 14 years in prison. There is also no limit to the length of driving bans that a court can impose.
“However sentences in individual cases are for the courts to decide, taking into account all the circumstances of each case.”