Single mother caught drink-driving with son, 9, in the car

Villagers in Bildeston are concerned by development plans

Vanessa Van Heerden was caught drink driving in Bildeston - Credit: Archant

A single mother caught drink driving at nearly four times the legal limit with her nine-year-old son in the car has avoided an immediate prison sentence. 

Magistrates in Ipswich heard how Vanessa Van Heerden, 46, was seen behind the wheel of a Volkswagen Beetle in Bildeston, near Hadleigh, on July 31 this year. 

The car was described as driving erratically on High Street, hitting kerbs and verges and slowing down before then speeding up, Jacqui Dankyi, prosecuting, told Suffolk Magistrates' Court. 

Van Heerden almost hit parked cars and a house, and her nine-year-old son was in the passenger seat, Ms Dankyi said. 

Police were called and following arrest, Van Heerden gave a reading of 132 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35mcg in 100ml of breath. 

Ms Dankyi said the offence was aggravated by the fact Van Heerden's son was in the car and due to the "unacceptable standard of driving". 

Van Heerden previously pleaded guilty to drink driving on September 3, and a pre-sentence report was ordered by magistrates.

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The court heard that she had no previous convictions. 

Van Heerden, of Station Field, Boxford, near Sudbury, was not represented at her sentencing hearing. 

She told magistrates she was "completely mortified" about the incident. 

She said she was not alcohol dependant and is a single mother to her nine-year-old son, and told magistrates he was her "world". 

Van Heerden added the incident was "completely out of character" and that she was aware of the danger she had put other people and her son in at the time. 

Sentencing Van Heerden on Friday, magistrates told her she was "very lucky" not to be going straight to custody because of her "extremely high reading". 

She was handed a 12-month community order, with 240 hours of unpaid work. 

Magistrates also banned Van Heerden from driving for three years. 

She was also fined £120 and ordered to pay costs of £105 and a victim surcharge of £95. 

Magistrates did offer Van Heerden the opportunity to take a drink-drive rehabilitation course, which will reduce her ban by 36 weeks if completed within the necessary time frame.