Sunderland driver who failed to blow into breathalyser twice exactly one year apart is banned for two-and-a-half years

Stephanie Cowell refused a second breath test
Stephanie Cowell refused a second breath test

A driver who twice failed to blow into a breathalyser machine exactly one year apart has been banned from driving for two-and-a-half years.

Stephanie Cowell was unable to provide a second sample of breath after recoirding 100 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath – nearly three times the legal limit of 35 – following a car crash in Sunderland.

The issue for trial was that she suffers from severe anxiety and depression and was unable to provide a specimen of breath at the police station

Ian Jordan, defending

City magistrates heard the incident, on April 1, came exactly one year after Cowell committed the same offence – April 1, 2016.

At that time she was spared a diving ban but was slapped with 10 penalty points.

This time, however, she was banned from driving for 30 months.

Prosecutor Ember Wong said police were called at 2.30am, by a resident reporting a road traffic collision, near his Sunderland home.

Miss Wong said: “Officers found the defendant who appeared to be drunk and was arrested.

The court heard how Cowell told officers: “I’ve got 10 points. I’m going to lose my licence aren’t I?”

Cowell was taken to Southwick Police Station and told to take a breath test.

Miss Wong said: “The defendant initially made no impression on the machine and complained of breathlessness. She attempted to provide a specimen of breath, but was only able to prove one sample of 100 microgrammes.

Cowell, of Azalea Avenue, Ashbrooke, Sunderland, was found guilty after a trial, on July 10, of failing to provide a specimen of breath for analysis without reasonable excuse.

Ian Jordan, defending, said an appeal against the conviction would be lodged with the crown court.

He said: “The issue for trial was that she suffers from severe anxiety and depression and was unable to provide a specimen of breath at the police station. There will be an appeal against conviction.

“In terms of sentence, it has always been Miss Cowell’s case that at the time of driving she had not consumed alcohol. There had been a collision, she had collided with a parked car at the side of the road.

“Police were called and directed to Miss Cowell’s address 30 miuntes to an hour later.

“She had consumed alcohol after driving and it’s that which would put her above the legal limit. This is not a case where police have detained a driver at the scene.

“The offence is aggravated because of the previous conviction.”

He said the previous offence related to a neighbour ‘maliciously’ telling police that Cowell had been driving when she had not. She then failed to provide a specimen of breath.

Mr Jordan said Cowell relies on her driving licence to take her mother to hospital for her cancer treatment, and asked the bench to suspend the driving ban, pending the outcome of the appeal.

The bench declined and made an immediate ban.

She was also sentenced to a 12-month community order with 200 hours’ unpaid work and was told to pay £620 costs and a £85 surcharge.