Lawyer jailed over drink-drive lies


Ruth Lumley
Friday 20 January 2012 17:07

A City lawyer who claimed he was the victim of a kidnap to avoid being arrested for drink-driving has been jailed, Sussex Police said.

Francis Bridgeman, 43, attempted to create an elaborate web of lies to cover up the drink-driving offence, but was sentenced to 12 months at Lewes Crown Court today.

Bridgeman's Land Rover Sport was found locked and in a ditch in Shovers Green, Ticehurst, East Sussex, at about 1am on April 7, 2010, having crashed into a telegraph pole, police said.

Officers traced the Land Rover to Bridgeman's home in Wards Lane, Wadhurst, but the lawyer claimed armed men had kidnapped him in the car park of Wadhurst railway station, before driving him off at knifepoint with a bag over his head in another vehicle and then dumping him in Cousley Wood.

Sussex Police said a breath test carried out at his home proved he was just over the drink-drive limit and he was arrested on suspicion of drink-driving.

Police launched a kidnap investigation but Bridgeman's recollection of events could not be substantiated, police said.

British Transport Police CCTV footage showed him walking in a drunken manner on the platform at London Bridge railway station following an evening out with work colleagues.

Bridgeman's DNA was found on the Land Rover's airbag, showing that he must have been driving the car when it crashed, Sussex Police added.

He was charged with perverting the course of justice, drink-driving, driving without due care and attention and failing to report a road accident.

Police said it took just 45 minutes for the jury to find him guilty following a five-day trial at Brighton Crown Court in December last year.

Detective Constable Emma Penrose-Reed, from East Sussex CID, said: "Francis Bridgeman attempted to create an elaborate web of lies and deceit around his bid to cover up his drink-driving offence and deflect attention away from himself.

"He tried to portray himself as a victim of crime and continually displayed acts of ill health throughout the investigation.

"But due to the hard work, considerable amount of resources and close liaison with our valuable partners at British Transport Police, we were able to discredit his fabricated story and bring him to justice."

Judge Guy Anthony banned Bridgeman from driving for 18 months and ordered that he pay £4,200 costs.

Quoting a line from Sir Walter Scott's poem Marmion, he said: "Oh, What a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive."

He added: "You wasted valuable police time and public expense in order to escape a drink-driving offence when you should have had the courage and decency to plead guilty from the outset. To pervert the course of justice is a serious offence and warrants a custodial sentence."