Sunderland man hoping for driving job gets banned for drink-driving – for the second time

Neil McKnight was over the limit
Neil McKnight was over the limit

A Sunderland City Council worker with ambitions to chauffeur disabled people has been caught drink-driving a second time.

Neil McKnight, 35, a support worker for adults with learning disabilities and autism, had hoped to take service users on excursions, South Tyneside Magistrates heard.

The court was told McNight had been hoping to apply for a driving licence after being disqualified for drink-driving in 2013, in time for the New Year when he gains responsibility for 20 disabled adults.

However, he has now been forced to put those plans on hold after again getting behind the wheel while over the limit.

Keith Laidlaw, prosecuting, said police spotted McNight driving a Suzuki Grand Vitara, at 12.50am on October 6 on the A690 at the junction on Barnes Park Road.

Mr Laidlaw said they activated the blue lights and followed the car to a driveway in Queen Alexandra Road.

He said: “McKnight ran off into the rear garden and tried to hide from the police. He was detained by officers and they could smell intoxicating liquor on his breath.

He was arrested and found to have 45 microgrammes if alcohol in 100ml of breath - the legal limit being 35.

McKnight, of Colchester Terrace, Sunderland, pleaded guilty to drink-driving, driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence and without third-party insurance.

Bushra Begum, defending, said the vehicle belongs to McKnight’s girlfriend and that he and a friend had gone out in it before having a drink. McKnight was said to only have drunk one cocktail, while the friend was too drunk to drive.

Ms Begum said McKnight had decided that drive the vehicle as he was unable to get hold of anyone else to.

She said: “He didn’t think he was over the limit. The reason he was worried was because he didn’t have any licence or insurance.

“That’s why he hid. He was surprised the reading came back over the prescribed limit.”

She added: “He works as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities for Sunderland City Council. He thought he had turned a corner from the previous matter in 2013. After Christmas his plan was to apply for his licence.

“He wants to be able to use the van available for his employment to transport individuals in his job.

Bench chairman John Scott said: “Because of the severity of the disqualification on the last occasion, and, because this is your second conviction in 10 years, we are unable to disqualify you for any less than 40 months.”

McKnight was also fined £800 and told to pay an £80 surcharge and £85 costs.