Road safety campaigners have demanded zero tolerance and “urgent clarity” in drink-driving laws after a court let a new officer recruit stay on the road despite being caught with almost twice the legal limit of alcohol.
District judge Timothy Pattinson gave PC Andrew Pearce a belated Christmas present of allowing him to drive away from Basingstoke magistrates' court with his licence intact.
The judge decided that when the 31-year-old quit the British Transport force ahead of a gross misconduct hearing, he would opt to show leniency in light of the already significant punishment of seeing a promising career end in disgrace – before it had really begun.
The court heard that Pearce, who had just finished his training, resigned before the panel sat after being told no-one had ever kept their job following being charged with such an offence.
Pearce, of Fleet, Hampshire, admitted drink-driving and regretted to the court how the costly decision to resign had impacted on him – with no chance of receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance for six months.
But as Pearce's future job prospects got a short-in-arm from narrowly escaping disqualification – and instead being handed 10 penalty points – the Brake road safety charity called for “all drink drivers” to be banned, irrespective of any mitigating or professional circumstances.
Brake director of campaigns Joshua Harris said: “We believe there should be consistency within the law.
“We urgently need clarity in our drink-driving law with an effective zero tolerance approach and strict and consistent enforcement – only then can we hope to rid our roads of the menace of drink-drivers.
“Mr Pearce should count himself very lucky that he was not banned from driving – his actions certainly merited disqualification.
“Drink-driving is illegal because it is proven to be highly dangerous, with even small amounts of alcohol affecting safe driving.
“At twice over the legal limit - which is itself set far too high – Mr Pearce would have been a significant risk to himself and others when behind the wheel.”
The court heard the former officer was found sitting in his car at a railway station with his headlights on and using the heater to clear frost from the windscreen as he prepared to drive home after a police Christmas party in the early hours of December 13.
He was breathalysed by officers from Hampshire Constabulary and found to have 61 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath – the legal limit is 35mg.
Judge Pattinson was told that when Pearce was arrested by officers he told them he was a British Transport officer.
In addition to the penalty points, Pearce was ordered to pay £150 in fines and costs. He was given a month to pay.