Judge blasts woman caught smoking while driving car with five-year-old child inside
A woman has been fined after she was found smoking while driving a car in which a five-year-old child was travelling.
Chelsea Connolly was told by a judge that she did not properly care for the youngster, who was found unrestrained in the back of the vehicle.
District Judge Roger Elsey told the 26-year-old that she was “in need of education” after she was caught smoking while the child slept in the back seat without a booster seat or seatbelt.
Smoking in a car, or other vehicle, with anyone under the age of 18 present was made illegal in England and Wales in October 2015.
Prosecutor Rebecca Laverick told Sunderland Magistrates’ Court: “The officer sees Ms Connolly going through a red light near Sainsbury’s carpark in Monkwearmouth.
“He notices that she is smoking and stops the vehicle.
“There is a child, aged five, unrestrained in the back seat, asleep.
“There is no booster seat present and the child is not wearing a seatbelt.
“The defendant told the officer that she was not going through a red light and that she thought it was on amber.
“The footage was not clear so she was not summoned for that offence.”
Connolly, of Second Avenue, Chester-le-Street, pleaded guilty to smoking in a vehicle in which a child was present and driving with a child passenger aged between three and 13 years in the rear seat, who was not wearing a seatbelt.
Gerry Armstrong, defending, said: “Had it not been for the potential consequences of the red light she would not be here.
“Had it been just these offences she would have got a fixed penalty.
“She had been taking a friend, who was in the front passenger seat, home – she lives very close to here – when she saw a former boyfriend in the street.
“She circled the street but thought it best to drive out of the street and away.
“She went into Sainbury’s and when she sat at the lights she had a couple of puffs on a cigarette.
“Whether the window was open or not she should not be smoking if there is a young child in the car.”
District Judge Roger Elsey said: “Smoking around your child shows that you do not properly care for the child and that you are in need of education.
“However, saying that, parliament imposes that all I can do is impose a fine.
“I doubt that will change your behaviour or give any enlightenment, but that is all I can do.”
Connolly was fined £120 and was told to pay a £30 surcharge and £50 costs.