A DRINK driver who plunged his car straight into a Sunderland house causing serious damage has avoided jail.
Craig Humphrey was three-and-a-half times the legal limit when he ploughed his Ford Focus through the front wall of a house in Gladstone Street, Roker.
The 35-year-old was slammed by road safety charity Brake after he was handed a suspended sentence.
Sunderland magistrates heard the resident had been enjoying a cup of coffee on January 25 when dad-of-two Humphrey’s smashed into his home.
“The witness was sat in the front window having a cup of coffee when he heard an massive bang,” prosecutor Lee Poppett said. “He immediately got up and realised something had actually hit the front of his house.
“He went out of his front door and saw a blue Ford Focus had struck his house. He saw a female in hysterics 20 yards away and a male running about 30 metres away towards Roker.
The front of the vehicle was embedded in the address. There was extensive damage to the front-end of the vehicle and the house.Prosecutor Lee Poppett
“Police attended and saw the motor vehicle in situ. The front of the vehicle was embedded in the address. There was extensive damage to the front-end of the vehicle and the house. Both airbags had been deployed.”
Mr Poppett said police enquiries revealed Humphrey to be the registered keeper of the car and he was arrested at his home in East View, Fulwell.
A breath test was carried out at 1.24pm – some two hours and 25 minutes after the crash – which revealed he had 122 microgrammes of alcohol in 100millilitres of breath, the legal limit being 35. “He said he knew nothing about the accident. He stated that the keys to the vehicle were left in the house when he went to bed after drinking, having left his partner and another person downstairs,” Mr Poppett added.
“Around seven to 14 days after the interview, he contacted the police asking to attend the police station. He attended, stating that he had been driving the vehicle at the time. He had been drinking the previous evening but he didn’t feel drunk.
“He said he’d had an argument with his partner. He thought she was going to damage his vehicle so he drove off. He had recently had a new clutch fitted to the vehicle and he wasn’t used to it .”
Humphrey told police he was shocked and worried the incident would impact a HGV driving course he would be starting.
“The complainant has had to do extensive repair work to his house,” Mr Poppett added. “He was insured, so that’s a civil matter and unfortunately not for the criminal courts to deal with.”
Humphrey admitted drink driving and failing to stop after an accident. He was given a 14-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.
A probation report said Humphrey works for a factory supplying dashboards to Nissan and that he had been drinking heavily the night before, and, just prior to the smash had been drinking vodka and beer.
Anna Haq, defending, said: “Mr Humphrey is extremely remorseful and he couldn’t go about his normal business, knowing that he had provided incorrect information to the police. He has contacted police through us and has attended the police station and fully admitted the offence.
“He would never normally drink and drive, but he believed his vehicle was under threat.” He is devastated for the injured party who has suffered damage to the property and he wishes to apologise to that injured party and to the court,” Mrs Haq added.
Chairman of the bench, Jean Brown, said: “This offence is so serious only a custodial sentence is appropriate. It was a very high reading and serious damage was caused to the property, and we, on this bench, believe that you have crossed the custodial threshold.”
Humphrey was also banned from diving for three years and was told to attend a drink impaired driver’s course and carry out 60 hours of unpaid work. He will have to pay £85 costs and a £80 surcharge.
Dave Nichols, spokesman for Brake, the road safety charity, said: “This shocking case demonstrates the dangers of drink-driving and the damage it can cause.
“This type of behaviour regularly puts others at risk of death and serious injury. It’s fortunate that no one was harmed in this instance.
“Drink driving is still one of the biggest killers on our roads, which is why we are calling on the UK government to take action and bring England and Wales into line with the new lower limit introduced in Scotland.”