Drink-driver was five times over the limit

WALKING FREE ... Gareth Howden was spared jail after being caught more than five times over the drink-drive limit.

WALKING FREE ... Gareth Howden was spared jail after being caught more than five times over the drink-drive limit.

A ROAD safety campaigner says a motorist who was more than five times over the drink -drive limit should have been jailed.

Gareth Howden recorded an “excessively high” alcohol breath test reading after being stopped by police and was given a five-year driving ban.

But he was spared custody by magistrates, who ordered to him to complete a 24-month community order with supervision –- as well as live under a curfew from 10pm until 7am for six months.

South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court heard that the 34-year-old is suffering from alcoholic hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver caused by his heavy drinking.

At the hearing, Howden, of Temple Green, South Shields, pleaded guilty to driving with excess alcohol.

He recorded a breath test reading of 178mcg of alcohol in 100ml of breath – more than five times above the legal limit of 35mcg.

He was stopped by police while travelling in a Citroen C4 on Temple Green, South Shields, on January 4 this year.

The court was told he had previously served a 12-month road ban for a drink-drive offence in 2010.

Carole Whittingham, secretary of the Campaign Against Drinking And Driving (CADD), says Howden should have been handed a lifetime ban from the roads.

Mrs Whittingham said: “It’s very disappointing there wasn’t a custodial sentence. We need to send out a very strong message that it’s not acceptable to drink and drive.

“My own opinion, and that of CADD, is that he should be given a lifetime ban from driving. We would like to see a zero-tolerance policy on drink-driving – if you drink, you don’t drive; if you drive, you don’t drink.

“People shouldn’t have any alcohol before they drive. Then there is no excuse.”

The zero-tolerance policy is backed by fellow safety campaigners, Brake.

Paul Anderson, prosecuting, told the court: “He was driving the vehicle on a Saturday evening, at 9.23pm. He is stopped by police.

“The alcohol reading is an excessively high one of 178 mcg of alcohol in 100ml of breath. That is five times over the legal limit. There is also a previous drink-driving conviction.”

Nicholas Rooke, defending, said: “Mr Howden pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and is entitled to full credit for that. He suffers from alcohol dependence and has alcoholic hepatitis.

“He has had issues with alcohol for some years.

“He is a lending specialist at Barclays Bank and such is the respect they have for him, they are keeping his job open for him for two years to deal with his personal problems.

“He is terrified of receiving a custodial sentence and will do anything to avoid that.”

Howden was also ordered to pay court costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £60.



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