Councillor admits drink-driving

A LEADING local politician and former TV journalist has given up his long-held aspirations to become an MP after being charged with drink-driving, the EADT can reveal.

By Roddy Ashworth

A LEADING local politician and former TV journalist has given up his long-held aspirations to become an MP after being charged with drink-driving, the EADT can reveal.

But Conservatives have refused to accept Kevin Bentley's offer of resignation from his cabinet post at Colchester Borough Council and yesterday said they supported him fully in that role.

Mr Bentley, who has stood for Parliament against Colchester Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell twice, had hoped to represent the Tories for the new Witham constituency at the next election.

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He had been short-listed for the position and was due to be interviewed by the local party this weekend.

But on Friday, during a road-policing crackdown in Colchester, he was stopped by officers in Peldon and asked to provide a breath sample.

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Former BBC Look East reporter Mr Bentley, a director of Colchester-based PR firm Mosaic Publicity, was found to have 54 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35 micrograms.

He has since withdrawn his application for the Witham Tory candidature, leaving 20 other hopefuls fighting to represent the Conservatives.

In a statement Mr Bentley said: “It is with deep regret that I inform you that I have tendered my resignation as Portfolio Holder for Culture and Public Relations at Colchester Borough Council.

“It comes after I was stopped by Police on Friday November 3 while driving home.

“It was discovered that I was over the legal drink-drive limit and I was subsequently charged.

“The legal limit is 35 micrograms per breath and I was recorded at 54 micrograms.

“I had earlier that evening consumed alcohol with my meal but believed I was well under the limit.

“I had absolutely no intention of driving while under the influence of alcohol otherwise I would not have got into my car.

“This is clearly a serious error of judgment on my part. In addition I have also withdrawn from the candidate selection process for the new Witham constituency at the next General Election.

“I am due before Colchester Magistrates' court later this month where I intend to plead guilty and expect to be fully punished.”

But Robert Davidson, leader of the Conservative group at Colchester Borough Council, said he had refused Mr Bentley's offer of resignation from the town's ruling cabinet, where he holds the culture and public relations portfolio.

Mr Davidson said: “Kevin obviously misjudged his condition, but we do not condone drink driving under any circumstances. He will, however, be paying the price in the courts.

“This does not mean he is a lesser man in doing his job in the cabinet - in fact, knowing Kevin, if anything this will make him redouble his efforts to show both his fellow councillors and the public that he is fully committed to doing his duty for Colchester.

“He has also been punished because unfortunately this will be the end of his parliamentary aspirations.

“But Kevin's enthusiasm and natural ability to promote this town is not diminished.

“He has learned a very hard lesson.”

An Essex Police spokeswoman said: “A man from Colchester will be appearing before magistrates later this month after having been charged with drink driving.

“The 42-year-old man was stopped by road policing officers at midnight on Friday as he travelled along Lower Road in Peldon.

“He was arrested and subsequently charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol.

“He was released on police bail prior to his appearance at Colchester Magistrates' Court on Thursday November 16.”

Mr Bentley was arrested during Operation Steel Guard, a clamp-down on motoring offences in the Colchester area that involved more than 50 officers.

He was one of four drivers to be arrested for drink-driving during the operation, which saw hundreds of motorists stopped for offences.

* Read an exclusive interview with Kevin Bentley - in which he talks candidly about his drink-drive shame - only in tomorrow's EADT

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