Drink driver escapes jail term

AN ANTI drink-drive group has hit out after a 59-year-old man who drove nearly 20 miles while four times over the legal limit escaped a jail sentence.Howard Staras, of Ickleton Close, Haverhill, was banned from driving for the second time in the less than 10 years by Sudbury magistrates yesterday .

AN ANTI drink-drive group has hit out after a 59-year-old man who drove nearly 20 miles while four times over the legal limit escaped a jail sentence.

Howard Staras, of Ickleton Close, Haverhill, was banned from driving for the second time in the less than 10 years by Sudbury magistrates yesterday .

The court heard how Staras had driven from Newmarket to Haverhill on the morning of September 2 while four times above the legal drink driving limit.

Despite his high reading, magistrates decided not to jail Staras, instead sentencing him to a 200-hour community punishment order and banning him from driving for three years.

Staras was previously convicted of drink driving in 1995.

Last night, John Sparrow, spokesman for the Campaign Against Drink Driving, said he believed the sentence was "unduly lenient".

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He argued: "I believe this man should have been sent to prison, it was his second offence of this nature, and he was four times over the limit, which is extraordinarily high.

"This man has been utterly selfish and irresponsible and we need harsher sentences to stamp out this type of behaviour.

"We are very disappointed when we hear of sentences like this, it is unduly lenient, and I think it sends out a message that if you are caught driving over the limit you will be treated leniently – what we need is the exact opposite."

Prosecutor Ian Devine told the court how police officers stopped Staras' Volkswagen Passat car in Chalkstone Way, Haverhill, at 10.40am. After five attempts officers were still unable to take a satisfactory reading and claim Staras said: "You don't have to do this, I am almost home and I haven't hurt anyone."

Later Staras was tested at Haverhill police station, which recorded a reading of 141 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, four times above the legal limit of 35 micrograms.

Nick Wray, mitigating, told the court how the incident happened when Staras was depressed and in between jobs.

He said his client had consumed a large amount of alcohol and drove to Newmarket where he sat in his car to think about things. He then decided to drive home to Haverhill, a journey of about 20 miles.

He added: "He knows he faces a real prospect of going to prison, he is a man of 59, and this has caused him much concern. If he were sent to prison it would also have a dramatic effect on his wife. "He has been alcohol free since the incident and there is a low risk of him re-offending, so a community punishment order would be an appropriate sentence."

Chairman of the bench Ken Turner said they had taken Staras' early guilty plea into consideration, but said he only narrowly escaped going to prison.

"Despite successive Governments spending a fortune of taxpayer's money to tell people not to drink and drive you still chose to ignore these warnings. You came very close to going to prison."

Staras was also ordered to pay courts costs of £43.

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