Guilty – drink driver sentenced

A few weeks ago, I went and watched my first ever magistrates’ court case. Strangely, I have watched parts of some more considerable cases at the Royal Courts of Justice, but I have never attended my local courts; neither the magistrates’ or crown.

My interest in local justice was piqued when I had to call 999 to report an incident of drink driving. Despite the months rolling on, the police officer was wonderful and remembered to keep me updated with this case. She let me know when the court case was and informed me that I would subsequently hear from the witness service with the result. I decided that I wanted to hear the result myself and everything that went into it.

The story goes like this. My job at present is a hotel receptionist. A gentleman came into the hotel and asked me where a room was. “There is no number 47”, I replied. He was swaying, smelt like alcohol, had blood shot eyes and seemed to be having difficulty focussing on his phone. He told me to wait a minute and he tapped away.

I waited patiently. Over a minute passed with no speaking and I was still waiting there. He continued to struggle to focus on his phone, and lowered it down. I saw a flash of the instantly recognisable yellow and blue of Grindr. Grindr is a gay hook up app. (I may be familiar with it). Clearly, he had come to the hotel in the hope of meeting someone. This someone had evidently flaked on him.

The man then raised his hand slightly, gestured he would be two minutes and wandered to the exit. I wondered where on earth he could be going. In horror, I watched him walk over to the right hand side of a driven in car – the driver’s side. Despite unlocking the car, he locked it again, then unlocked it. He sat down and closed the door. The car lights came on. And then they went off. And then back on again. There was a pause and then he reversed out of the space. With the car park exit to his left, he would therefore need to reverse out to the right, in order for the car to be facing the correct direction. He did the opposite. He faced a dead end so reversed back into the space he had come from and proceeded to drive towards the exit. He completely missed it and ended up on the other side of the car park. Again, he faced another dead end with two rows of parked cars either side. He reversed but this time no so smoothly and tapped a car. He went forward and tapped another.

At this point I dialled 999. I should have before but I was in shock to what I was witnessing. Afterwards, I checked the recorded CCTV and saw he had gone back towards the exit he had just missed and drove at speed taking the first left junction on the mini-roundabout. He was completely oblivious to anything coming from his right.

Six months later and he appeared at Northampton Magistrates’ Court. It was really interesting watching the happenings of the court case. He stated his name and his plea. Guilty. The prosecution then read out that I had witnessed him get into the car after the short exchange we had. She stated about how he reversed and drove in the illogical manner. The police found him at his home and arrested him on suspicion of drink driving. He had claimed to have more drink at home so the police needed to make calculations to see if he was over the limit whilst actually driving. I cannot remember the level of alcohol found on his breathe but it was well over the limit.

The defence then asked the magistrates to please bear in mind that he had pleaded “guilty” to this offence and he recognises that it was a wrongful act. She stated that he had had a really bad day. I cannot remember if she said his Dad had been buried that day, or something equally as sad. I was so shocked that she was bringing this up that I can’t quite recall the exact detail. She then decided to go down the route that the accused uses his car as a mobility aid and he therefore uses it for his independence. This angered me. If he relies on his car so much, and absolutely requires it, why was he so irresponsible and selfish? Why did he not spend £4 to get a taxi to the hotel? Why did he knowingly abuse his licence? The defence then admitted that he was using Grindr and sadly he was turned down, so was therefore distraught when he returned to the car. Perhaps the earlier burial, combined with the flaking meant that he was unable able to focus on correctly manoeuvring the car. What is this? I do not accept that.

We were all told to stand and then bowed as the Magistrates retired to the back office. They closed the door and were gone for about 5 minutes.

They entered, we stood, bowed and returned to our seats. She read out his sentencing. He received:

– £168 fine
– Disqualification from driving for 12 months
– Drink drive course was offered
– £115 costs

He was given the opportunity to reduce his disqualification to 8 months if he went on the “driving” course. He has to pay for this, and has to complete it on the first go. He instantly accepted.

I suppose the case lasted for about 20 minutes.

I was amazed at the VOICE service – VOICE for Victims and Witnesses, as I had received the aforementioned letter outlining the sentence he had received the very next day. I was impressed.

I think the sentencing was ok. He was aware he was consuming alcohol and knew he was well over the limit; perhaps to take his mind of the events earlier that day. I disagree with the lowering to 8 months. He had to pay his fines out of his benefits.

I am pleased he is off the road. Sad that he had been driving around for the last 6 months. The judgement will hopefully make him consider the dangers of drink driving. He drove a 1.5 tonne vehicle and he wasn’t fit to do so. That could cause a lot of damage.

On that night, when he finally left the car park, he took the first junction to the left off the mini-roundabout, completely oblivious to his right. On the right, is a McDonald’s. A silver car was only one second away from a nasty collision with him. He missed them. But anywhere on the two mile commute to his house, he could have injured or killed anyone.
Samuel x

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