Woman blames sleep-walking after crashing car while drink-driving

Sunderland Magistrates' Court
Sunderland Magistrates' Court

A woman has blamed sleep-walking after she crashed her car while more than two-and-a-half times the drink-drive limit.

Karissa McGarley had downed half a bottle of vodka the night before the early-morning smash in Southwick on December 8, last year, Sunderland magistrates heard.

However, the 26-year-old claims she has no memory of the incident due to her parasomnia and the medication she was taking.

Prosecutor Lee Poppett said: "At shortly before 8am, police were informed of a road traffic collision involving a Renault Megane and a traffic island on the junction of Queen's Road and Keir Hardy Way, in Southwick.

"It would appear that the driver lost control of the vehicle and collided with the traffic island and then came to a stop."

Mr Poppett said a witness approached the Megane as McGarley made unsuccessful attempts to drive off the island.

The court heard she remained on the scene when police arrived.

Mr Poppett said: "She has been compliant and accepts she was the driver at the time and she appeared to be intoxicated."

McGarley failed a roadside breath test and was taken to Southwick Police Station, where the lower of two readings tested 92 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath - the legal limit being just 35.

She was interviewed under caution, telling officers she had been to a friend's house the night before, where she had drunk half a bottle of vodka before returning home.

She then took a sleeping tablet and went to bed.

Mr Poppett added: "She could offer no explanation as to how she has driven or why she has driven and states she had no recollection of the incident whatsoever.

"She said she had been at somewhat of a low point, suffering from depression."

McGarley, of Wiltshire Close, Witherwack, pleaded guilty to driving with excess alcohol.

She has no previous convictions the court heard.

The case had been listed for a trial the following day, when she had been expected to enter a defence related to her sleep disorder.

However, her solicitor, Sandra Fife, said she had advised her client to plead guilty after undergoing an assessment at a sleep clinic.

Mrs Fife said: "She was having difficulties with sleep walking, which go back to her childhood."

The court heard McGarley is on medication and that episodes most commonly occur when she is in a stressful situation.

Mrs Fife said McGarley had recently split from her partner of 10 years, who is the father of her child.

"She has no recollection of getting into the car and driving - it's a very unusual situation," Mrs Fife said.

"She suffers from parasomnia - it is a cover-all phrase which refers to the activities people can get up to in their sleep.

"She quite simply doesn't remember what occurred.

"Saying that, she has had a considerable amount of alcohol and she was taking this medication.

"The issue is sleep walking, running alongside drinking, whilst on medication.

"I have advised her that she is not able to advance anything sufficient for a defence.

"She has stopped taking the medication that caused the problems in the first place, which reduces the risk of this happening again.

"When she consumed the alcohol, she had no intention to drive, this was the next day. She still can't explain why she drove.

"It doesn't detract from the reading itself which was 92.

"She has been referred to a sleep clinic and she is attending appointments."

McGarley was fined £140 and was told to pay £85 costs.

She was banned from driving for 22 months.