Community service and ban for ‘remorseful’ drink-driver

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A MAN who was caught behind the wheel while almost three and a half times over the legal drink-drive limit has been spared jail.

Michael Gerard Coleman (39) appeared in the Magistrate’s Court yesterday, where he was sentenced to 140 hours’ community service. He was arrested last November after driving behind a marked police car in Burrard Street with his headlights on full beam, causing the officers inside to have difficulty in seeing.

When officers began speaking to him, with the original intention of giving ‘words of advice’, they smelt alcohol on his breath.

Assistant legal adviser Harrison Gollop, prosecuting, said the defendant told officers that he had only had ‘one beer at lunchtime’ but, after failing a breathalyser test, he was arrested on suspicion of drink-driving and taken to the police station.

While there, he was put on an evidential testing machine where he provided a reading of 122mg within 100ml of breath. The legal limit is 35mg.

Advocate Debbie Corbel, defending, said her client had experienced a number of traumatic events in his personal life prior to him offending, but was now receiving help from government agencies.

‘Many people in this position usually have some sort of event that leads to a tipping point in their life but, in Mr Coleman’s case, there have been a lot of distressing events in a short period of time and I ask the court to pay due weight to those when sentencing Mr Coleman.

‘I have been instructed to sincerely apologise and ask the court to impose community service instead of the custodial alternative. Mr Coleman is a hardworking and dedicated family man. It has been to his detriment that he has been keeping his troubles on his shoulders for too long,’ she added.

Advocate Corbel added that her client’s employer remained supportive, that Coleman had been remorseful throughout and that he wanted to thank the officers involved for the way they had treated him.

Assistant Magistrate Peter Harris, sentencing, described Coleman’s reading as ‘very high’.

‘I do not need to tell you how serious this situation is. I have read your letter and all of your references and I accept that as a man with no previous record, including anything at the parish hall, it can be said that this was out of character. It does show how rapidly one thing can lead to another. In a sense, it is fortunate that you came to the attention of the police for a minor matter [headlights] and that this was dealt with in a prompt manner. Perhaps that was a wake-up call that led to you addressing a number of things,’ he said.

He added: ‘I think your remorse is genuine and you are entitled to have a chance to avoid imprisonment.’

Mr Harris banned Coleman from driving for three years. He must retake his test before he can drive again after that.

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