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Friday, 06 March 2015

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Lake District drink-drive doctor has court phobia

A family doctor caught drink driving in the Lake District has won the right to take a course that will cut her ban – but she was not present for the ruling because she suffers from a court phobia.

Sian Firth – voted GP of the Year in 2009 – was so incapable when police officers found her sitting in her Mazda car near Penrith she could barely stand. She had just driven across Kirkstone Pass.

A tyre on her car had gone flat and was shredded by the time she pulled over, Carlisle Crown Court heard.

Her solicitor Ian Hudson brought the case back to court because a district judge had earlier ruled she was not entitled to take a drink driver’s rehabilitation course, which if completed will reduce her two year driving ban by six months. After considering the application with two magistrates, Judge Peter Hughes QC said that Firth should be entitled to take the course.

The judge said the district judge had been wrong to rule that the defendant could not take the course as a result of her being unfit for driving through a combination of drink and drugs. The drugs in question had been properly prescribed for Firth, who suffers depression.

A roadside breath test taken after 40-year-old Firth was found by police last August as she drove home from a Lakes holiday, showed she had drunk more than four times the legal alcohol limit for driving.

Judge Hughes said the defendant had not been present at the appeal hearing because she appeared to have a phobia that prevented her from entering the court.

He said it had not been appropriate for the clerk in the magistrates court to intervene in the case and advise the district judge. He said the advice given, that Firth could not take the course, had been wrong.

Had the defendant solely taken her prescribed medication, her driving would not have been affected.

“What affected the manner of her driving was that combination and the fact that she had taken alcohol,” Judge Hughes said. “There are good reasons why she should have the advantage of such a course.”

Firth, of Harley Terrace, Newcastle, admitted driving while unfit due to alcohol. She was fined £200 with £85 court costs and described her actions as “a moment of absolute madness” while suffering depression.


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