MAGISTRATES who gave another chance to a banned driver caught drunk behind the wheel for the FOURTH time in 10 years have been blasted by anti-drink drive campaigners.
Mark Morton was three times over the limit when he was pulled over riding a 125cc scooter on Temple Park Road, South Shields.
Police smelled booze on the 32-year-old’s breath and arrested him.
Morton, of Stanhope Road, South Shields, was banned from driving at the time, having been given a three-year disqualification in July last year.
But he was spared jail at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court yesterday, after pleading guilty to driving with excess alcohol, driving while disqualified and with no insurance.
The decision has come under fire from the Campaign Against Drinking and Driving (CADD), which said Morton should have gone to prison and the decision to suspend the sentence is “ludicrous”.
Morton was given a four-month prison sentence, suspended for two years and placed on an alcohol treatment programme as well as being banned for another four years.
Carole Whittingham, chairman of the charity - which supports families of victims killed and injured by drink-drivers and fights for tougher laws - said: “What planet are these magistrates on?
“He has had three chances to get help before and hasn’t - he’ll be laughing now.
“He could have gone to jail for just one of the offences and has shown a blatant disregard for the law.
“Thank god he didn’t kill someone - but he has been given another chance to do that, lets hope he doesn’t.
“Magistrates should have sent him to jail - it’s ludicrous that they haven’t.”
During the case, Claire Irving, prosecuting, said: “He was seen riding a Peugeot Vivacity scooter on the afternoon of August 31.
“When officers saw him they stopped him and after smelling alcohol on his breath arrested him.
“A breath test showed he had 103mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath - the legal limit being 35mg.
“They also realised he was already disqualified.”
The court heard that it was the fourth time Morton, who has 20 previous convictions, has been caught drink driving.
The most recent were last year - when he was disqualified for drink driving and taking a vehicle without consent - and in 2008, when he was also convicted of driving without a licence and failing to stop after an accident.
And in 2010 Morton was fined after being caught trying to steal a security camera - that recorded him doing it.
Christopher Brown, defending, said Morton - who spent the hearing crouched down due to a back problem - said he needed treatment for his alcoholism.
He said: “He shouldn’t have done this because he was already disqualified, but he did.
“He says he only had one cider, but what must have happened is that his levels topped up from the previous day due to his alcoholism.
“If he went into prison he wouldn’t get the help he needs, which he will on the outside.”
Chairman of the bench Kenneth Buck said: “Our starting point is 12-weeks custody for the driving while disqualified alone.
“You have similar offences on your record and you were on a conditional discharge which you have disregarded.
“This has crossed the custody threshold but we’re going to suspend the term of imprisonment.
“However, it was touch and go whether you went to jail today.”