Drink-driver forced police to 'play dodgems' as she sped down A1 in wrong direction

A drink driver travelled the wrong way along a dark motorway at 80mph with only three wheels left on her car after a crash.

Wednesday, 3rd June 2020, 6:04 pm

Joanna Sutherland, who was more than three-times the drink drive limit, smashed into a crash barrier on the A1 and got stuck in a verge but then managed to drive off in her badly damaged car.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the 40-year-old was seen travelling north along the southbound carriage at Washington services and HGV lorries had to swerve out of her path to avoid collision.

An off-duty police officer then had to "play dodgems" as Sutherland drove "directly towards him" on the wrong side of the motorway in the darkness.

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Joanna Sutherland

Prosecutor Neil Pallister told the court the officer described Sutherland "swerving across the nearside and centre lines then move between the centre and offside".

Mr Pallister added: "Meanwhile, the officer was trying to avoid the vehicle. To avoid collision, he had to drive along the tarmac verge.

"He estimates the vehicle travelled past him at about 80mph, still travelling in the wrong direction on the road."

The court heard Sutherland's car finally came to a standstill on the A194, after police at the scene had to "brake hard" to avoid another collision and then spotted her abandoned car.

She was found "sitting amongst nearby trees, smoking a cigarette".

Mr Pallister said: "She was described as heavily intoxicated, unable to stand unaided."

The court heard Sutherland was "well over" three times the legal limit to dry when a breath test was carried out.

Mr Pallister said Sutherland had got behind the wheel of her Volkswagen Zafira in the early hours of May 5 after leaving a "sad note" for her partner saying she "no longer wanted to be alive".

Sutherland, of no fixed address, admitted dangerous driving and driving with excess alcohol.

Judge Julie Clemitson sentenced her to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with rehabilitation requirements and a two-month nighttime curfew.

Sutherland was given a five-year road ban with extended test requirement.

The judge told her: "This was in the early hours of the morning. There was some traffic around, fortunately not as much as this was during lockdown period but there were HGVs and other people using the road at that time."

Judge Clemiston added: "There were vehicles trying to warn you you were going the wrong way.

"You narrowly missed an off-duty police officer who was effectively playing dodgems on the three lane motorway as you were pulling across lanes, coming towards him at speed in the dark.

"You created an extraordinarily dangerous situation for other road users.

"You were clearly very drunk and oblivious to your surroundings. You were not in a position to control your vehicle or make sensible choices or proper judgements.

"In addition, the vehicle was in a dangerous condition. By the time you were stopped, one tyre was completely gone and you were driving on the rim, on a motorway, at speed, in the early hours of the morning in darkness."

The judge said someone could have been seriously or fatally hurt if a collision had resulted and told Sutherland: "You no doubt had thoughts of self harm, towards yourself, but I am sure you never went out that night intending toharm anyone else but clearly you created a real risk of causing serious injury."

Annalisa Moscardini, defending, said Sutherland is "deeply ashamed" of what happened and has no memory of it.

Miss Moscardini said Sutherland has a history of mental health problems and had a troubled background but has sought help to cope with her issues.

She added: "She does not intend on driving again."

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