Drink-driver crashed in snow

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AN Alnwick man who crashed his van into a snowdrift near Lowick while more than two-and-a-half times the drink-drive limit has been banned from driving for 24 months.

Paul Hill, 47, of South Road, pleaded guilty to drink-driving and was given a interim disqualification at an earlier hearing in December pending pre-sentence reports.

Last Thursday, Berwick magistrates gave Hill his ban – which can be reduced to 18 months on the completion of a drink driver rehabilitation course – and also ordered him to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work as part of a 12-month community order.

He also has to pay court costs of £85.

Hill, a painter and decorator who travels all over the country in his work, had gone to the White Swan pub at Lowick after work on December 10.

Defending Hill at the earlier hearing, Ian O’Rourke said that his client was in the pub with a work colleague who was not drinking and who had offered to let Hill stay with him.

However, when the workmate left to pick up his girlfriend in Berwick, he didn’t return and Hill decided to drive home.

The court heard that Hill didn’t get very far before he crashed into a snowdrift. He was helped out of the snow by passers-by and continued on his way home on the B6525 towards Wooler, as the A1 was closed due to flooding.

However, someone had seen the van stuck in the snow near Lowick and had contacted the police. An officer on his way to look for the incident came across Hill on the road.

The defendant was stopped by the officer and failed a roadside breath test and was arrested. At Berwick police station he blew a reading of 95mg in 100ml of breath, the legal limit being 35mg.

Mr O’Rourke said his client was a man of previous good character and had no convictions at all.

“He was standing around outside the pub in just his T-shirt freezing and he couldn’t get in touch with his workmate on his mobile phone, and came to make a decision he now bitterly regrets,” Mr O’Rourke said.

He added that his client had fully co-operated with the police and that this would be the only blemish on Hill’s good character and may lead to him losing his job.

Magistrates had warned Hill at the earlier hearing that they were considering a medium-level community sentence. His interim disqualification will count towards the total ban.