Magistrates were criticised yesterday for failing to jail an alcoholic drink-driver who was SIX times over the limit.
Builder Joseph Harrison, 31, was caught at the wheel of his works van after downing an entire bottle of vodka.
Police saw him crawling along the road in his Fiat Doblo and were hit by alcohol fumes when they opened the door.
A breathalyser recorded 202 mgs of alcohol in 100 mls of breath – almost six times the legal limit of 35 mgs.
Magistrates said they had never seen such a high reading and told Harrison a custodial sentence was appropriate.
But he left Colchester magistrates court in Essex with a suspended jail sentence and three-year driving ban on Tuesday.
Chair of the bench Nicholas Chilvers told him: “It’s an exceptionally high reading. On the guidelines we have it’s way off the scale. It’s just not there.
“This bench, in about 40 years of experience, has never come across such a high reading.
“Given that the public were put at a high level of risk and this is a flagrant breach of the law we take the view a custodial sentence is appropriate.”
The sentence was labelled ‘shameful’ by Jayne Jones, 54, whose son Aiden was killed by a drink-driver at the age of 20.
He was killed in a head-on crash with motorist Nicholas Kemp who was two and a half times over the legal limit in 2009.
Mrs Jones, a teacher from Stowmarket, Suffolk, said: “I’m absolutely lost for words – he hasn’t even gone to prison.
“The sentences are always about the outcome, Harrison didn’t kill anyone.
“But he could have, and that’s what matters. I’ve never heard anything like it, six times over the legal limit is just ridiculous.
“I think Harrison should have been locked up straight away.
“In my view he should have gone to prison for a lot longer than 16 weeks.
“It’s shameful. These drink drivers, they just do it again and again, they don’t learn. They’re selfish human beings.”
Harrison, of Mickleton, Glos., was caught around 5.20pm on December 11 in Colchester.
He told the court he has had an alcohol problem for around three years, and had attended Alcoholics Anonymous on a number of occassions
He pleaded guilty to drink-driving and was given a 16-week jail term suspended for 12 months.
He was also ordered to do 200 hours’ unpaid work, pay a £80 victim surcharge and £85 prosecution costs.
He has since lost his job.
Sentencing guidelines for magistrates state any driver with more than 131 mgs of alcohol must been banned for 36 months.
But this can be reduced by nine months by taking a drink-drive rehabilitation course.
Magistrates must also consider a custodial sentence, but they must take into account any aggravating or mitigating factors.
Factors indicating a higher culpability include carrying passengers, an unacceptable standard of driving, and poor weather conditions.
Ones that indicate a greater degree of harm include being involved in a crash, driving near somewhere such as a school while drunk, and a high-level of traffic or pedestrians nearby.
Magistrates must also consider the mitigation of the defendant.
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