Drink-driving Sunderland taxi driver allowed to keep his licence

BACK ON THE ROAD: Taxi driver Christopher Bateman.
BACK ON THE ROAD: Taxi driver Christopher Bateman.
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A TAXI driver convicted of drink-driving has been allowed to stay on the roads – despite being caught almost three times the legal alcohol limit.

Six months after Christopher Bateman was caught driving under the influence, he can still get behind the wheel after magistrates suspended his two-year driving ban.

Bateman, 49, was arrested and charged in June, then convicted at a trial on November 7, and the case was adjourned for probation reports until this week, where he was handed a 24-month disqualification from getting behind the wheel.

However, magistrates agreed to a plea from Bateman’s solicitor Anna Haq to suspend the ban until his appeal against the conviction and sentence can be heard by a judge at Newcastle Crown Court on a date yet to be determined.

It means Bateman is free to drive around Sunderland, despite his high reading of 97 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath – the legal limit being 35 microgrammes.

Prosecutor Ian Simpson told Sunderland magistrates how Bateman had arrived at the home of his ex-partner at 10pm on June 26, last year. 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.

“They noted his eyes were glazed and he was drunk,” Mr Simpson said. “He was initially arrested on suspicion of assault, but on noticing his breath smelled of alcohol, he was later arrested for driving with excess alcohol.”

Bateman failed a breath test at the police station and told officers that he had been in the Buffs club, where he had drank a pint of shandy at 8pm, followed by another at 9.45pm. He said he had then driven home to Attwood Grove, Southwick, to collect his phone, before driving back to the club and parked the car, then drank five pints of lager.

Anna Haq, defending, said: “Mr Bateman denied the offence and continues to do so. I have handed in an appeal this morning. He is a hard-working man. He is a taxi driver. It’s the first time he has had any involvement with the police or with the courts. I would ask you to take that into consideration and suspend the disqualification. ”

Aside from his driving ban, Bateman was also handed a 12-month community order and told to carry out 130 hours of unpaid work, and pay £120 costs and £60 victim surcharge.

Sunderland City Council, which has the power to suspend or revoke a taxi driver’s licence with immediate effect if they are found guilty of drink-driving, would not confirm whether or not Bateman had informed them of his conviction.

Coun Michael Mordey, portfolio holder for city services, said: “All taxi drivers licensed by this council have the legal responsibility to make us aware of any convictions against them. A driver convicted of drink-driving will be reported to the Regulatory Committee, who have the power to suspend or revoke a taxi driver’s licence with immediate effect.

“The decision of the committee is entirely independent of the outcome of any appeal that a driver may bring against a sentence of a Magistrates’ Court.”

Sarah-Jane Martin, spokeswoman from Brake, the road safety charity, said: “Anyone who drinks and drives should expect to face the consequences, no matter who they are or what they do for a living. Drink-driving remains one of the biggest killers on our roads, and allowing offenders to escape a ban sends out the wrong message.”