Sunderland dad downed bottle of vodka found in car on a trip to garden centre to buy Christmas tree

Drink-driver Stuart Allen.
Drink-driver Stuart Allen.

A dad downed a bottle of vodka he found in his car on a trip to a garden centre to buy a Christmas tree.

Stuart Allen was more than four times the drink-drive limit when he was stopped in Viewforth Terrace, just around the corner from his Sunderland home, South Northumbria magistrates heard.

Christmas trees for sale.

Christmas trees for sale.

The court was told he had driven his Seat Leon the six-and-a-half-mile distance from Redfox Garden World, off the A184 Newcastle Road, on December 3.

The 53-year-old married father, who recently lost his job, was found to have 142 microgrammes in 100ml of breath – the legal limit being 35. He has now been banned from getting behind the wheel for three years.

Allen, of Broomshields Close, Fulwell, pleaded guilty to driving with excess alcohol.

Gareth Henderson-Moore, defending, said Allen had driven to the garden centre and bought a Christmas tree when he decided to down vodka before driving home.

Mr Henderson-Moore said: “He found a bottle of vodka in the car, which he drank from after purchasing the Christmas tree.

“He had no choice but to drive home after purchasing the Christmas tree, so his family wouldn’t find out what he had done.”

He added: “You heard what happened. This was a spur of the moment decision.

“You’ve heard he has no previous convictions. He’s deeply remorseful for what he’s done and he understands the impact this is going to have not only on him but on his family as well.

“He has led a useful life. He has been employed all of his working life.

“Last year he was made redundant and the loss of his parents caused him considerable difficulties.

“He’s turned to alcohol but he is dealing with that.”

Mr Henderson-Moore said Allen referred himself for help with his alcohol problem two days after he committed the offence.

He said: “He’s 53 years of age and this is the first time he’s been before the court.

“He’s terribly embarrassed about that and for his family. He wishes through me to apologise to the court today.

“He accepts he will be disqualified for a lengthy period of time and that there is nothing that can change that.”

Bench chairman Brian Parkinson said: “Because of the distance driven and high level of the reading this is well into the custody band.

“The decision of the court is that you will be sentenced to 18 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.”

Allen will have to compete 10 days of rehabilitation activity, 200 hours of unpaid work and will be banned from driving for three years.

He was also told to pay a £115 surcharge and £85 costs.