Politician admits drink drive shame
A LEADING councillor spoke of his shame yesterday after he was caught drink-driving on his way home from a private dinner.But Kevin Bentley, cabinet member for culture and PR at Colchester Borough Council, said he had been persuaded not to resign from his position by Tory colleagues.
By Roddy Ashworth
A LEADING councillor spoke of his shame yesterday after he was caught drink-driving on his way home from a private dinner.
But Kevin Bentley, cabinet member for culture and PR at Colchester Borough Council, said he had been persuaded not to resign from his position by Tory colleagues.
Speaking exclusively to the EADT, Mr Bentley - a former BBC Look East reporter - admitted that his life-long aspiration to become an MP was now in tatters.
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At the weekend he withdrew his application to become the Conservative Party candidate for the newly created constituency of Witham at the next general election.
But he insisted he had not known he was over the limit when his Mercedes sports car was pulled over by police at around midnight on Friday.
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Mr Bentley, a director of Colchester-based PR firm Mosaic Publicity, said: “I had been at a private dinner at which I drank about three to four average glasses of wine early in the evening.
“I stopped drinking for about three hours before leaving, although I did have some port with my cheese.
“I did not feel under the effects of alcohol and I honestly did not think I was over the limit, otherwise I would never in a million years have got in my car.”
He also stressed he did not have a drink problem. “I drink maybe three nights a week, wine with meals. I haven't made a habit of this sort of thing - normally I would get a taxi or my wife would drive me.”
Mr Bentley was stopped by traffic officers after his car crossed a white line on Lower Road, Peldon.
He was taken to Colchester police station where he was breathalysed and found to have 54 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35.
“I wrote my resignation letter the next morning. I phoned the leader of the council, Robert Davidson, and he came round to see me,” Mr Bentley told the EADT.
“I explained the position to the leader and said I had to go. But Robert said I had already had a big punishment - my lifetime ambition to be an MP was over.
“He did not accept my resignation and on Monday morning I spoke to the cabinet. In the evening I spoke to the Conservative group. I apologised to them. They voted a vote of confidence in me, but they realise I am in the wrong and made a grave error of judgement.”
Mr Bentley said he would plead guilty when he appears in court next Thursday.
“I have done wrong and I feel very bad about it. I am truly totally ashamed. I am not after sympathy and will accept my punishment.
“I feel terrible - and that I have let so many people down - family, colleagues and those who elected me.
“However, I have been overwhelmed by the support I have received.”
He added he had considered resigning as a councillor and re-standing in his ward, allowing local voters to decide whether he should remain a councillor, but after taking advice had decided against it.
“That would be the easy thing to do. But I want to do my best to make it up to people and prove to them I can still represent them.
“Obviously if I get sack loads of mail from my ward I will reconsider.”
He added: “I will pay the price for this, and I only hope that anyone who finds themselves in the same situation will think of me and not drive.
“I will never, ever drive on the same day as drinking again.”
Yesterday Mr Davidson said he had full confidence in Mr Bentley and his position at the council.
“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.”