PICTURE : MARK JAMIESON
A drink driver was found asleep in a car which had been stopped for 45 minutes outside Coleraine Police Station in the early hours of April Fool’s Day and when PSNI officers investigated they had to knock the window several times to waken him.
Police were then hit with a strong smell of alcohol from Stephen Simpson (28), of Freehall Park, Castlerock, who was more than three times the drink drive limit.
The defendant had a reading of 120 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath – the legal limit being 35 micrograms.
A prosecutor said that at 1.55am on April 1 this year police went to a vehicle opposite Coleraine Police Station which had been there for 45 minutes with its lights on.
The driver was asleep at the wheel with the keys in the ignition and damage was noted to the vehicle.
The prosecuting lawyer said it took several attempts to waken Simpson by knocking on the window and when the door opened there was a strong smell of alcohol.
The lawyer said the defendant would not co-operate with police but it emerged it was not Simpson’s vehicle and he had no driving licence.
At Coleraine Magistrates Court on Monday, District Judge Liam McNally said it was a “very high reading” and defence solicitor Paddy McGurk accepted it was “extremely high”.
The lawyer said Simpson had been in a bar in Castlerock and had gone to the vehicle owner’s house.
The lawyer said the vehicle owner fell asleep and although his client’s recollection was extremely limited, the defendant had taken the vehicle.
Mr McGurk said the “foolishness and madness” was highlighted by the vehicle being parked outside the police station.
The lawyer said Simpson was “appalled” when police later told him the details.
“He is thankful nothing more serious occurred,” said Mr McGurk, who described his client as an unemployed butcher.
At Monday’s Court, Simpson pleaded guilty to charges of driving with excess alcohol in his breath; aggravated taking and causing damage to a vehicle – a Volkswagen Golf; absence of insurance and a driving licence; and resisting police.
Judge McNally said it was a bad case with a very high reading which crossed the custody threshold and he imposed a four months jail term, suspended for two years.
He also banned the defendant from driving for 18 months along with fines totalling £400.