Sunderland taxi driver fights to clear his name after drink-drive conviction

Christopher Bateman, of Attwood Grove, Southwick, Sunderland, taxi driver convicted of drink-driving who is appealing against his conviction.
Christopher Bateman, of Attwood Grove, Southwick, Sunderland, taxi driver convicted of drink-driving who is appealing against his conviction.
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A CONVICTED drink-driver has vowed to continue to drive his taxi while he fights to clear his name.

Self-employed cabbie Chris Bateman was found guilty of drink-driving at almost three times the legal limit in November. He registered a reading of 97 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath – the legal limit being 35 microgrammes. He was not caught behind the wheel of the car.

As reported in yesterday’s Echo, Sunderland magistrates this week sentenced the 49-year-old, of Attwood Grove, Southwick, to a one-year community order for the offence.

However, the bench agreed to pleas from Bateman’s solicitor to suspend the 24-month driving ban until he can appeal his conviction before a crown court judge.

Sunderland City Council said yesterday it has the power to suspend or revoke a taxi driver’s licence, and the local authority confirmed it had been contacted by Bateman with regards to his case.

Bateman, though, says he will continue to drive his cab.

“Of course I’m driving my taxi,” he told the Echo today. “I have emailed licensing explaining the situation that I’m in. But yes, I’m still driving my car.”

The cabbie of 28 years, who had a clean licence until his conviction in November, was arrested on June 26. But he claims the timings of the night in question were crucial.

Prosecutor Ian Simpson told the court Bateman had arrived at the home of his ex-partner at 10pm. She attempted to calm him down, after he became abusive and started to shout.

He was told to come back when sober, Mr Simpson said, and got into his Volkswagen Passat and drove off.

Mr Simpson said that after police were called, officers went to the Buffs club, in Old Mill Road, Southwick, and spoke to Bateman at 10.30pm.

However, Bateman claims it was 11.35pm when they arrived at the club, where he had parked up his car for the evening at 10.05pm.

“At that point I started drinking,” he said. “The person who served me behind the bar said that I did not drink alcohol until I returned to the Buffs at 10.05pm He came to court to give evidence.

“My ex-partner thought I had drank because she could smell it, but I only had two pints of shandy much earlier in the evening.”

Bateman says he drank ‘eight or nine pints’ before police arrived. He was arrested on suspicion of assault, of which he was later cleared. And it was not until 11.45, he said, that police decided to breathalyse him.

“It was the first time I’d been arrested,” the dad-of-two said. “I’ve never had trouble with the police in all of my life.”

Bateman’s legal team has submitted an appeal to the crown court, which he believes will be heard at the end of February.

“It’s actually one of the biggest fights of my life,” he added. “I am defending my rights. This was clear-cut drink-driving. It’s not quite right.”