A drink driver who was almost twice the legal limit has been banned from the roads for a year - after telling magistrates he was forced to get behind the wheel because he had been beaten up.
Craig Chandler, 29, said he feared for his safety and claimed to have suffered a broken nose, black eye, cuts to his face and bruised ribs, when he was allegedly set upon in a flat above the shops complex in Whitleas Way, South Shields, in the early hours of February 28.
Magistrates in Sunderland banned him from driving for 12 months - instead of the 16 to 22 months the offence would normally attract - and despite the fact that Chandler admitted he hadn’t mentioned the attack to the police when he was stopped and breath tested.
Magistrates found the circumstances of the offence amounted to special reasons - because he drove in an emergency.
A spokeswoman for road safety charity Brake said: “The courts have obviously accepted this driver’s excuse that he only drove in that state because he felt threatened but a car is a lethal weapon in the hands of a drink driver.
“Getting behind the wheel at twice the legal limit is extremely dangerous. We calling for tougher sentences for drink driving to act as a proper deterrent.
The court heard Chandler, of Ranson Crescent, Simonside, South Shields, was stopped at 1.10am, in Benton Road, Whiteleas, after police saw him driving erratically.
A breath test confirmed he had 65 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath – the legal limit is 35.
Chandler had pleaded guilty to driving with excess alcohol at an earlier hearing.
In evidence, Chandler said: “I was at a flat above Whiteleas shops, having a few drinks with my mates and a few other. I was attacked in the house by three people.
“I got out of the house but was followed and quickly jumped in the car. I had a black eye, a broken nose and bruised ribs and marks across my face and that.
“I feared for my safety that was the only reason I got into the car, I wanted to get away.”
Stephen Davies, prosecuting, asked Chandler why he had failed to mention to police that he had been attacked.
He asked magistrates: “Do you believe Mr Chandler when he says he was attacked?”
Chandler replied: “They were from my area and I didn’t want to get police involved.”
He was also given a reduced fine of £120 and was told to pay a victim surcharge of £30 and costs of £85.