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‘Catastrophe’ avoided after alert off-duty police officer took keys from drink driver who was almost four times the limit

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AN alert off-duty police officer plucked the keys from a car after a woman – almost four times the drink limit – had driven a short distance from an off-licence in Coleraine.

A judge said there could have been a “catastrophe” if Karen Cunning (57), of Gransden Court in Coleraine, had not been detected at Knocklynn Road in the town on December 14 last year. The car had been driven with its boot open.

Two bottles of unopened wine were in the Saab car. There was a smell of alcohol and the defendant was speaking incoherently, Coleraine Magistrates Court heard. Staff at a WineFlair said they saw the defendant driving off.

A blood test showed a reading of 301 with the legal limit being 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. Defence solicitor Briege Martin said her client had driven for 41 years with “not so much as a penalty point”.

On the date in question Cunning had consumed alcohol at lunch time and driven to the off-licence to get more drink for later. The lawyer said the matter had caused Cunning much distress and she couldn’t believe her own actions

District Judge Liam McNally said he didn’t think he had ever jailed anybody with a previously clear record for such an offence but the defendant “comes extremely close”.

“Going out onto the road with four times the limit of alcohol in her system, I mean, this could have been a catastrophe,” said the judge.

Judge McNally said the clear record of 41 years and guilty plea meant he would suspend a four months jail term for two years. The defendant was also banned from the road for 18 months.

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