Suffolk/Essex: Drink-driver who was nearly six times the limit spared jail

Drink-driver was nearly six times the limit

Drink-driver was nearly six times the limit - Credit: Archant

A mother whose son was killed by a drink-driver has criticised a decision not to jail a motorist who admitted to being nearly six-times the legal alcohol limit.

Joseph Harrison’s breath test showed he had 202 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath when he was caught driving his employer’s van in Braintree after consuming a bottle of vodka. The legal alcohol limit is 35mcgs.

Despite saying they had never seen such a high reading, Colchester magistrates sentenced Harrison to a 16-week jail term suspended for 12 months and disqualified him from driving for three years.

However, after Harrison’s sentencing Jayne Jones, of Stowmarket, whose son Aiden was killed by drink-driver Nicholas Kemp in head-on crash near Needham Market in 2009, said: “I’m absolutely lost for words. Sixteen weeks – what’s that? He hasn’t even gone to prison. I think Mr Harrison should have been locked up straight away

“In my view he should have gone to prison for a lot longer than 16 weeks.”

Sentencing Harrison, chairman of the three-magistrate bench Nicholas Chilvers told him: “It’s an exceptionally high reading. (On) the guidelines we have it’s way off the scale. It’s just not there. This bench, in about 40 years of experience, has never come across such a high reading.

“Given that the public were put at a high level of risk and this is a flagrant breach of the law we take the view a custodial sentence is appropriate.”

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However, Mr Chilvers added the jail term would be suspended.

Harrison was also ordered to do 200 hours’ unpaid work, and must pay £80 to the victim’s fund. He was also told to pay £85 prosecution costs.

The builder was arrested after being stopped by police in Third Avenue, Braintree on December 11.

Previously prosecutor Sharon Hall told the court police were contacted at around 5.20pm by someone stating there had been a crash involving a van on the Blueridge Industrial Estate in Braintree.

When officers arrived there was no sign of a crash or the van.

However, Mrs Hall said subsequently police saw a van “crawling” along.

After driving up behind it, the Fiat Doblo came to a halt. When officers spoke to Harrison the smell of alcohol was overpowering, the court heard.

Magistrates heard Harrison, of Mickleton, near Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, realised he had an alcohol problem around three years ago and has attended Alcoholics Anonymous sporadically. He told the probation service when he is stressed he ‘self-medicates’ with alcohol.

The court was told it was believed Harrison’s alcoholism stemmed from the death of two close family members.

Harrison, who has no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to drink driving. The court heard he had also lost his job as a result of his actions.

Magistrates sentencing guidelines state any driver who has more than 131 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath must been banned for 36 months. However, they can get this reduced by nine months by taking a drink-drive rehabilitation course.

Magistrates must also consider a custodial sentence, but they must take into account any aggravating or mitigating factors.

Factors indicating a higher culpability include carrying passengers, an unacceptable standard of driving, and poor weather conditions. Ones that indicate a greater degree of harm include being involved in a crash, driving near somewhere such as a school while drunk, and a high-level of traffic or pedestrians nearby.

Magistrates must also consider the mitigation of the defendant.