RECOVERING alcoholic Stuart Butcher suffered a lapse during rehabilitation and was caught by police while driving while almost four times over the drink-drive limit.
At Eastbourne magistrates’ court on Thursday, June 23, Butcher, 37, of Grassington Road, Eastbourne, pleaded guilty to driving with 139 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath – the limit being 35 mcgs.
But after a personal and remorseful apology to the court, Butcher was spared the prison sentence he could have faced for such a high reading and was instead given a 12-month community order, to include 200 hours of unpaid work, and banned from driving for three years.
Also ordered to pay £85 costs, Butcher was told he could reduce the length of disqualification by six months if he took a drink-driver rehabilitation course.
Heather Salvage, prosecuting, said a police patrol had noticed Butcher’s blue Vauxhall Astra being driven erratically, and without headlights, in Lottbridge Drove at 9.45pm on June 8.
He was followed and stopped in Royal Parade. On opening the driver’s door, officers noticed a strong smell of alcohol and Butcher said, “I’m such an idiot, aren’t I?”.
Anthony Waller, defending, said Butcher wished to address the magistrates himself.
Butcher said, “I would like to apologise to anyone who has been affected by drink-driving. I was fortunate to avoid a very different outcome. I do respect the law and this is my first time in court. Eighteen months ago I admitted to myself that I had a drink problem and joined Alcoholics Anonymous.
“After five months with AA I battled my addiction on my own, but on this day I succumbed. Since being arrested I have not touched a drop. I feel a deep sense of shame and guilt.”
Butcher said his employers, American Express in Brighton, had been very supportive and had organised addiction counselling for him.
They had written to the court to confirm this. Butcher also paid tribute to the support he had received from family and friends.
After hearing the evidence and a verbal report from a probation officer the Bench, chaired by Colin Crook, agreed that prison would jeopardise the efforts Butcher himself had been making to overcome his addiction and probably cause him to lose his job and his Amex-owned rented flat.
Mr Crook nevertheless told Butcher he had been lucky to avoid jail, adding, “This is one of the highest readings we have had before us for a very, very long time.”