No ban for man who drank then drove

HE was twice the drink drive limit when caught behind the wheel and admitted driving more than a mile - yet this man is free to get back behind the wheel today.

HE was twice the drink drive limit when caught behind the wheel and admitted driving more than a mile - yet this man is free to get back behind the wheel today.

South East Suffolk Magistrates decided not to ban supermarket manager Stephen Ball from the roads, instead giving him ten penalty points on his licence and fining him £500 after he admitted being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal alcohol limit.

Magistrates in Ipswich heard how Ball, 37, of Wilkinson Drive, Kesgrave, was arrested in a car park off Felixstowe Road, Martlesham Heath, on June 29.

Police spotted Ball in the driving seat of his parked Ford Mondeo at 12.25am. When he started the car's engine, officers stopped him and requested he perform a breath test, which indicated he was over the legal alcohol limit.

Ball was taken to Ipswich police station where he was found to be more than two times the legal limit, giving a reading of 89mcg of alcohol per 100ml of breath. The legal limit is 35mcg.

Emma Lister, prosecuting, said: “The defendant admitted drinking four or five glasses of white wine at a neighbour's party before walking home.

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“There he had an argument with his mother who was visiting from Liverpool. He felt he couldn't handle it and got into his car.”

Kelly Fernandez, representing Ball, said: “My client is a man of previously good character who has been going through a very difficult time.

“He and his wife are in the process of splitting up. He has debts of £36,000 and he is trying to sell his house to get rid of them. He has been prescribed medication for depression and a problem with his sciatic nerve.

“He had no intention of driving his car that night but, after an argument with his mother, had gone to calm down and think about things.

“He only drove about a mile and a half from his house and he spent some time considering this.”

Magistrates heard how Ball was due to become a training manager at Lidl - a job change that would require him to travel across the region and necessitate the use of his car. He was ordered to pay a £500 fine, plus £75 in court costs, and handed ten penalty points.

In sentencing Ball, the chair of the bench said: “We have spent some time considering your case and one of the things that concerns us is that you were two-and-a-half times the limit.

“To cut a long story short, we are not disqualifying you from driving but have decided to charge you with a heavier fine.”

The Crown Prosecution Service was unavailable to comment

A judicial communications office spokesman said: "All sentencing decisions in particular cases reflect the full range of evidence presented to the court in that case at that time, and a variety of other relevant factors which judges and magistrates must have regard to including the statutory framework, Court of Appeal judgments, and any mitigating or aggravating factors."

Should all people who drive when having drunk alcohol be banned? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

SINCE 1985, Campaign Against Drink Driving (CADD) has provided support for over four thousand families of victims killed and injured by drink drivers.

Carole Whittingham is national secretary and spokeswoman for CADD. Her son was killed by a drink driver when he was 27.

She said: “I only know of one other instance of someone escaping a driving ban for a similar crime. In that case, the defendant was let off because he was regarded a pillar of the community, but there is no mitigation that should apply.

“The law is very clear on this. If anyone is in charge of a car while over the drink drive limit, be it in motion or stationary, they are guilty of the same crime.

“On this evidence, drivers have got nothing to lose by drink-driving. A drink driver killed my son and I have to live every day with that in my mind.”

- WHAT THE CHARGE MEANS

A driver does not even have to be in a car to be found guilty of being in charge of a vehicle while unfit due to excess alcohol.

However, the charge of drink-driving has no statutory defence.

The maximum charge for being in charge of a vehicle while unfit due to excess alcohol is ten penalty points, a discretionary disqualification, a fine of up to £2,500, and three months' imprisonment.

The maximum charge for drink-driving is a 12-month mandatory disqualification for first offence or three years for second, a fine of up to £5,000, and six months' imprisonment.

The two charges form part of the Road Traffic Act 1988.