A school bus driver who was three times the drink-drive limit when he took terrified pupils home has avoided a prison sentence, it emerged today.
Boozy Kevin Veazey, 42, was spotted downing a mixture of orange squash and vodka before getting behind the wheel of his bus.
He was caught after an anonymous caller tipped off police, who tracked him down to the depot of his family coach firm Veazey Coaches.
Officers questioned Veazey at the depot in Huntingdon, Cambs., where he initially denied he had been drinking but failed an breath test.
A later check showed 105 micrograms of alcohol to 100 millilitres of breath – exactly three times the 35 micrograms limit.
Huntingdon Magistrates Court was told Veazey, who had been driving buses since he was 18, had a history of drinking and had been warned he would die if he did not stop.
He was on the run home from Sawtry Community College in Huntingdon, Cambs., where he had chatted with a senior member of staff who did not spot anything amiss.
But other drivers noticed he was ”staggering” and ”unsteady” on his feet, while another witness saw him slumped over the steering wheel of his bus.
Veazey claimed he did not know the orange squash was laced with vodka until it was too late.
Scheherazade Haque, prosecuting, said: ”At 16.03 police received an anonymous telephone call alleging that the driver of a bus with children on board had been drinking.
”Further inquiries were made by the police officers who spoke to other drivers.
”One witness described him as staggering and being unsteady on his feet and another witness said he had been sitting in the bus with his elbows on the steering wheel.”
Kevin Warboys, defending, said Veazey, of Winwick, Cambs., had not realised the bottle of orange squash he had drunk had alcohol inside it until it was too late.
He said: ”He realised he was drinking a mixture of orange and vodka instead of orange squash.
”He knew that was going to cause him problems so he went to the toilet where he made himself sick.
”He felt unwell, but thought he was fit to drive. No-one on the bus or elsewhere had any complaints about the driving.
”He will not be driving again for a living now or ever.”
He added Veazey had been ill at the time and was admitted to Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge three days later with a serious liver problem and inflamed spleen.
Presiding magistrate Michael Williamson told Veazey: ”I think you must be aware yourself of the seriousness of this charge.”
Veazey replied: ”I am sir.”
Veazey was given a 16-week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months and a three-year driving ban after admitting driving with excess alcohol last May.
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire County Council said the coach firm had contracts for school services at Sawtry and Hinchingbrooke in Huntingdon.
He said: ”The service operators and the county immediately suspended the driver pending the outcome of the court case as the safety of children was our main concern.
”Officers at the county council have left the operator in no doubt as to the seriousness of this incident and the implications if there was any suspicion of any further occurrence.”