A drink driving suspect claimed to have coronavirus, resulting in the locking down of an entire custody suite, a court heard.
James Thomson, 52, appeared before Swindon Magistrates’ Court this morning where he pleaded guilty to failing to provide a specimen of breath for analysis.
Crown prosecutor Keith Ballinger said the defendant, of Banbury, Oxfordshire, was pulled over by police officers responding to reports of a disorder at Players Club Westbury on 1 March last year – just three weeks before the government forced the country into the first COVID-19 lockdown.
Police were told several suspects, who had been drinking at the establishment, had left the scene in cars. A partial registration plate for an Audi was given to officers.
The car was soon stopped, but the occupant decamped and fled on foot. He was swiftly detained by the officers, but he refused to take a roadside breath test. He claimed to officers that he had coronavirus and had recently returned from Greece, where he drove a coach full of children around.
The suspect was taken into custody. Subsequently, Wiltshire Police decided to lockdown the suite until urgent advice could be sought from Public Health England.
His solicitor, defending, said Thomson – a former coach driver laid off due to the pandemic – planned to walk home from the club, but foolishly made the decision to drive home instead.
She told the court the defendant’s words about coronavirus were “not a complete fabrication” – he had been picking up passengers from Greece and China.
The defence claimed he told officers: “It would be better to take a blood test, rather than blow into that thing”, or words to similar effect.
Labelling his words at the police station as “manipulative”, district judge Joanna Dickens sentenced Thomson to a 12-month driving ban. He was offered the chance to reduce his sentence by three months if he takes an accredited drink-drive rehabilitation programme.
“No doubt a lot of police hours were lost because of your behaviour… it was highly irresponsible”, she commented.
He was also fined £250 and ordered to pay costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £34.