Sunderland driver banned after going to pick his dog up from grooming parlour while over the limit

A Sunderland man has been banned from driving for three years after going to pick his dog up from a grooming parlour while four times over the limit.

By Sue Kirby
Tuesday, 13 August, 2019, 16:45
South Northumbria Magistrates Court in South Shields

John Robert Harkness, 63, was on his way to pick up his pet when when an off-duty police officer asked him to hand over his keys at Stephenson Industrial Estate.

Harkness, of Barrington Drive, Washington, was arrested and found to have 137 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, with the legal limit being 35microgrammes.

Eve McDonnell, prosecuting, told South Tyneside Magistrates Court, that the off duty police officer suspected Harkness had been driving with alcohol above the limit when he saw him walking across the industrial estate at around 2pm on July 11.

Harkness, who is a carer for his disabled wife, said he had last had a drink in the early hours of the morning.

Defending, Richard Rodger, said his client was the main carer for his wife and does everything for her and also suffers from ill health himself.

He said in the early hours of the morning of the incident his client’s wife had had a fall and after lifting her up Harkness had to supervise her to make sure everything was alright.

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He said: “It was as that point he started drinking. He insists he had no more than five bottles of Budweiser.

“Later that day he took the dog to the groomer’s and then went to pick it up and the officer noticed him.”

Mr Rodger said the defendant honestly thought he was fit enough to drive at that time, but pleaded guilty to a charge of driving with alcohol above the limit.

The court heard there was no indication of Harkness having any kind of alcohol problem and this was an isolated incident.

The magistrates handed him an eight week jail sentence, suspended for 12 months, and disqualified him from driving for three years, due to the high alcohol reading. He was ordered to pay costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £122.