A SOUTH Tyneside doctor who crashed into another car on his way to work while nearly four times the drink-drive limit has been spared jail.
Richard Holmes had drank a quarter of a bottle of wine just four hours before he shunted into the back of another vehicle in Front Street, East Boldon.
The driver of the Nissan Juke vehicle he collided with alerted police when he suspected the 55-year-old had been drinking.
Holmes, who has worked for 27 years as a GP at Talbot Medical Centre, in Stanley Street, South Shields, admitted he had drank a bottle of wine to himself the night before.
When arrested, he recorded a breath test reading of 137 mcg of alcohol in 100ml of breath – the legal limit being 35mcg.
Holmes, of St Bede’s, in East Boldon, admitted a charge of driving with excess alcohol when he appeared before South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court yesterday.
The court heard that Holmes is attending an NHS alcohol support service, as well as a support group for doctors and dentists with alcohol problems.
He was warned by magistrates that he could have faced jail, but was instead slapped with a 26-week electronically tagged curfew, as well as being banned from driving for three years,
Jonathan Moore, prosecuting, said: “An incident occurred at about 9am on January 12 in Front Street, East Boldon.
“The driver of a Nissan Juke described putting on his handbrake to stop at traffic lights when he heard a loud bang.
“A Saab vehicle had crashed into the back of his car.
“The roof of the vehicle was down, which he thought odd due to the high winds and rain.
“He asked the driver (the defendant) what he was playing at.
“Holmes staggered out of the vehicle.
“The witness asked him if he had been drinking. Holmes replied ‘I need to get to work’.
“He asked him again and he said he had not been drinking.”
The driver called police, who arrived at the scene at 9.20am.
Mr Moore added: “Police noted Holmes’ eyes were glazed, he smelled of alcohol. They asked him when he had last had alcohol, he said at 5am.
“He said he had drank a quarter of a bottle of wine and had a bottle of wine the night previous.”
Geoffrey Forrester, defending, said: “Dr Holmes is a decent man, he is someone who can be described as being of positive, good character.
“He has served the community as a GP, doing what is a stressful job.
“There is a sadness for all concerned that he finds himself in court.
“His alcohol issues have crept up on him.
“He didn’t have a concept of the extent of his alcohol dependence until this happened. He has sought help immediately.
“He has not been struck off, but is suspended from work.
“It is hoped that in time, hopefully a short period of time, he will be able to resume his role in the caring profession he has contributed so much to.
“It has taken this incident to make him realise the grip that alcohol has taken on him and as soon as this happened he has taken steps to address that issue.”
Nicola Burns, chairwoman of the magistrates, said: “For this offence we can look at anything from a community order up to 26 weeks in custody.
“The offence is increased in seriousness due to the time of day it took place, when other motorists and pedestrians were around, and the fact you were involved in an accident could have pushed us to the custody bracket.
“We have taken into consideration the fact you have entered an immediate guilty plea, are of previous good character and have shown remorse, this brings it down to a community sentence.”
Holmes was hit with a 26-week curfew, operating from 8pm to 8am each day, as well as a 36-month driving disqualification.
He must also pay court costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £60.
Stacey Kean, Practice Manager at Talbot Medical Centre, said: “Dr Holmes is currently on long-term leave. Arrangements have been put in place to ensure patient care is not affected.”