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Retired Whittington teacher in court for drink-driving

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A retired teacher has narrowly escaped jail after pulling out of a junction into the path of off-duty policemen – while three-and-a-half times over the legal alcohol limit.

Patricia Barber forced the officers and motorists on to the other side of the road to swerve out of her way when she pulled out of the Church Lane junction with the busy A134 at Whittington.

Lynn magistrates were told on Friday that it was “extremely lucky” no-one was hurt by her actions.

The 66-year-old, who lives in Church Lane, Whittington, admitted drink-driving on December 4 after a breath test showed 122 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35.

Yvonne Neill, prosecuting, said the starting point for such a high-level reading was 12 weeks in custody, going up to 26 weeks, but magistrates took the “unusual” step of imposing a supervision order to address “serious concerns” about Barber’s dependency on alcohol.

The court heard Barber has been drinking every day since her husband of 50 years left her for another woman.

Her solicitor Elizabeth Symonds said on the day of the offence her husband had visited to collect some post and told her he would never go back to her.

“This devastated her as she had always thought he would come back to her,” she said. “She was also worried about money and was struggling to cope, which made her drink.”

The court heard she drank a bottle of wine before getting behind the wheel to go the shops.

Ms Neill said: “Officers were travelling along the A134 at about 5.30pm and were off-duty at the time. As they approached the junction with Church Lane they could see a vehicle waiting to pull out. The car then pulled out across the road, forcing the officer and motorists in the other carriageway to take avoiding action to avoid a collision.”

Barber failed to provide a breath sample at the roadside, so she was arrested and spent the night in a police cell.

Sally Dyde, of the Norfolk Probation Service, said her experience in the cell “shook her up” and she was “terrified” of being sent to prison.

She added that Barber scored the highest possible mark in an alcohol dependency audit, and her consumption was at a “harmful level”.

Sentencing Barber, chairman of the bench David Foreman told her: “You had so much to drink that custody was a real option. That level of reading is completely unacceptable.

“But luckily we have got a good probation service here that wants to help you.”

Barber was given a 12-month community order with supervision and a bespoke alcohol support plan, and banned from driving for three years. She was also ordered to pay costs of £145.

 

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