Sunderland driving instructor avoids ban after being found in car at four times the drink-drive limit

The case was dealt with in South Shields at South Tyneside Magistrates' Court.
The case was dealt with in South Shields at South Tyneside Magistrates' Court.

A Sunderland driving instructor has narrowly avoided a ban after he was found behind the wheel of his car at more than four times the legal alcohol limit.

Christopher Jackson was found sitting in the driver’s seat of the Vauxhall Corsa he uses to teach learner drivers, after police received an anonymous tip-off, South Tyneside magistrates heard.

He works as a driving instructor and received a cancellation at very short notice and had nothing else to do that day so he went to have a drink

Paul MacAlindon, defending

The 48-year-old, who smelled of alcohol, stumbled and had to be helped back to his feet by officers when he was told to step out of his vehicle, the court was told.

Prosecutor James Palmer said: “The police were notified on December 6 of a possible drink driver on Gillingham Road in Sunderland.

“Police attended and found the defendant in his vehicle, sitting in the driver’s seat with the seatbelt on. The key was in the ignition but the car was not running.

“They spoke to the defendant through the window and could smell alcohol on his breath.

“When asked to get out of the vehicle he stumbled and had to be helped to stand up again.

“It was the opinion of the officers drunk and he was cautioned and arrested.”

The bench heard how at the police station, Jackson tested 148 microgrammes of alcohol per 100ml of breath - the legal limit being just 35.

Mr Palmer added: “This is the in charge version of excess alcohol and the reading is a very high one.

“Sentencing guidelines would suggest a discretionary disqualification in that regard, but I would argue that the reading being that high a disqualification should be six to 12 months.

“The defendant is in fact a driving instructor.”

Jackson, of Gillingham Road, Grindon, pleaded guilty to being in charge of vehicle while unfit through drink.

Paul MacAlindon, defending, said: “Mr Jackson is a man of previous good character, who has been driving for 31 years and never had so much as a single point on his licence, never mind a disqualification.

“The vehicle is parked outside his house when police receive an anonymous report that there is a drink driver in the street.

“He has an idea of who this is, there is a dispute with one of the neighbours.

“He works as a driving instructor and received a cancellation at very short notice and had nothing else to do that day so he went to have a drink.

“He was in the car. He can’t remember putting the seatbelt on.

“He wanted to take all the equipment out of his car. He put the key in the ignition so he could download some files onto a USB stick.

“He doesn’t know why the seatbelt was on.

“The drinking is something he didn’t think was problematic, but there are depression issues.

“He perhaps self-medicated with alcohol, but that is all in hand. He has sought medical attention.

“He is a man who has never troubled the court before. However things end, this is going to have a severe impact on his livelihood.

“Even with 10 points he would have to declare it to his insurance company and the trade organisation for driving instructors.

“If he is disqualified, he will probably never be able to go back to being a driving instructor.”

The bench sentenced Jackson to a 12-month community order with 120 hours’ unpaid work and told him to pay £85 costs and £85 surcharge.

He was given 10 points on his licence.