Former policeman speaks of drink shame

PUBLISHED: 13:00 22 December 2001 | UPDATED: 11:04 03 March 2010

A FORMER Felixstowe policeman has spoken of his "night of sheer folly" after being convicted of drink driving but revealed he still backs the Star's Name and Shame campaign 100 per cent.

A FORMER Felixstowe policeman has spoken of his "night of sheer folly" after being convicted of drink driving but revealed he still backs the Star's Name and Shame campaign 100 per cent.

Super fit Harold Bennett, 67, even said he would shake the hand of the motorist who shopped him after he tried to drown his sorrows following a bust-up with his wife.

Mr Bennett, whose moment of madness cost him his driving license and a £355 fine, had this stern message for anyone thinking of boozing and then getting behind the wheel: "Don't be a bloody fool like me!"

Speaking from his Kirton home after his court case this week, Mr Bennett said: "It was a night of sheer folly. I've always backed the Star's Name and Shame campaign and even though I've now been subject to it, I think it was right I appeared.

"My message to anyone, particularly youngsters, is 'Don't be bloody fools!".

Mr Bennett spoke to the Star as Suffolk Police released encouraging figures showing that the number of drink-drivers caught in the county during the Christmas period this year were down on the same time in 2000.

A total of 11 drivers – 3 per cent of the 302 tested since Tuesday – had proved positive. Last year six per cent of 145 drivers tested were over the limit.

Recounting the lead-up to his shameful arrest around midnight on Saturday, Mr Bennett said he had been drinking at a social event after having a "domestic" with his wife.

"I was on an absolute downer and at the time I was too proud to ask my wife [to drive]," said Mr Bennett, of Weir Place, who runs five miles a day. "I'm not a drinker and before that night I hadn't had a drink for six weeks. As soon as I touched alcohol it went straight to my head – if had been a hardened drinker it probably wouldn't have done."

Mr Bennett was found to have 56 mcg of alcohol in 100ml of breath when police breathalysed him. The legal limit is 38mcg.

He was flagged down by a fellow motorist as he made his way home from Belstead on the A14 after he overtook her with his headlights full-beam. He was said to be swerving about the road.

"The lady flashed me down and I pulled over. She asked for my keys and I had the sense to hand them over. I sat in my car and waited for the police to arrive.

"If ever I met her again, I would shake her hand. She probably saved me from making a complete fool out of myself, or even worse, a tragic mistake. That particular evening I became public enemy number one. When you do that, you become a menace."

Although he resigned from his part-time post as a courier with a Felixstowe-based company, pensioner Mr Bennett said he felt relatively lucky that his 18-month ban wouldn't totally wreck his working life – unlike others who have already been named and shamed and others who doubtless will be.

He agreed to complete a drink-drive rehabilitation course that will chop his driving ban to 14 months but he said he will probably just sell his car off.

A hardworking and popular beat bobby until he retired from the Suffolk Constabulary 13 years ago, he said that his past service was "irrelevant" to his conviction. He was also well known for running marathons, including twice completing the famous 26-mile London Marathon.

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