“IT has been the year from hell.”
Cabbie Chris Bateman is looking forward to getting back behind the wheel after clearing his name of a drink-driving conviction.
The self-employed taxi driver was arrested last June and convicted after a trial in November.
The 49-year-old, of Attwood Grove, Southwick, was banned from driving for two years but magistrates agreed to suspend the disqualification pending the outcome of an appeal.
Now he has seen his conviction quashed at a hearing at Newcastle Crown Court.
“I am over the moon,” he said.
“I had always believed in myself and a lot of my colleagues and friends believed in me too.”
The cabbie of 28 years, who had a clean licence until his conviction, had claimed the timings of the night in question were crucial.
Prosecutor Ian Simpson told city magistrates in November that Mr Bateman had arrived at the home of his ex-partner at 10pm on June 26 last year, when he had become abusive before driving off.
Police who went to the Buffs club in Old Mill Road, Southwick, spoke to Mr Bateman at 10.30pm and noted he was drunk.
He was charged after failing a breath test at the police station.
But Mr Bateman had maintained he was not spoken to by officers until 11.35pm, by which time he had been drinking for an hour-and-a-half.
“I consumed around eight pints before the police came into the club,” he said.
“CCTV at the club clearly shows me entering the club at 10.05pm and shows how many times I bought drinks.”
Now he is looking forward to getting back to work.
“My life has been on hold for 11 months,” he said.
“My taxi licence was revoked and the DVLA required me to send my licence away.
“Now my driving licence is being returned, my taxi badges are being returned, my community order has been cancelled and my fine is being returned.”
Mr Bateman was also sentenced to do 130 hours unpaid work as part of his sentence and is angry that he was still pursued about doing it despite making it clear his appeal was pending.
“I was given 130 hours community service and they have chased me and chased me and chased me,” he said.
“Why should you have to do the community service when you are appealing against your conviction?
“I said to them ‘I am fighting that on appeal’ but they just said I still had to do the hours.”
A Sunderland City Council spokesman confirmed the authority was looking into the case with a view to allowing him to resume work.
“We are making enquiries of the court as to the status of Mr. Bateman’s appeal against his conviction.
“If he has, as reported, been successful in his appeal, he will be entitled to retain the Private Hire Driver’s licence issued to him by the city council.”