Jail for driver with record B-test reading

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The Independent Online
A DRUNKEN driver who gave what is thought to be Britain's highest breath-test reading of nearly 10 times the legal limit was sent to jail yesterday and banned from the road for two years.

Michelle Fothergill, who police said was so drunk that she fell over when they helped her from her car, had also been sniffing butane. She was sentenced to four months in jail, but told she would serve only half that time. Campaigners against drink-driving welcomed the jail sentence.

A breath test on Fothergill, 24, of Morley, West Yorkshire, showed 333 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath against the legal maximum of 35 when she was stopped by police, Morley magistrates sitting in Leeds were told. Her solicitor, Roger Clapham, admitted she had so much alcohol in her body that "in theory she should be dead".

Officers had noticed Fothergill driving at 60mph on a 40mph stretch of the A653 in Tingley, West Yorkshire, after midnight on 16 November 1998. T hey said she was driving erratically, clipping the kerb and using the wrong side of the road. When challenged, she spoke incoherently and had to be helped out of her car. Then she fell over.

At a hearing last month, Fothergill had pleaded guilty to driving while unfit to do so. Passing sentence yesterday, the magistrates' chairman, Sandra Westwood, said: "We feel that the offence is so serious that a prison sentence is the only way of dealing with you." Fothergill was given a three-month sentence for driving while unfit to do so and a further month, to run consecutively, for stealing from her former employer while on bail. Two months of the sentence were suspended, and she was banned from driving for two years.

A spokesman for the Campaign Against Drink Driving, Maria Cape, praised the magistrates' decision. "It's a very fair judgment," she said. "I'm glad the magistrates have done this because if they dealt with it leniently it would show the wrong message to other people."

The court was told that Fothergill, an unemployed divorcee, had not been prosecuted for drink-driving because she had also inhaled butane, which resulted in the reading being inadmissible. When officers took a second breath sample from Fothergill at the police station, they could not believe the result, and decided to take a blood sample.

But forensic science experts suggested that the result, indicating her alcohol level was only one and a half times the limit, was inaccurate because of the butane.