A LORRY driver seen swerving in his vehicle as he drove along a busy Carlisle city centre street had 16 times the legal limit of cocaine in his system.

Rickergate Magistrates’ Court heard how police who stopped Francis Sam Leach, 39, a short time after his poor driving was spotted saw him throw a plastic bag containing white powder out of his cab window before he pulled over for them.

On the dashboard in his cab officers found a bank card with traces of the same powder.

In court, the defendant admitted driving his Daf truck on May 16 while under the influence of benzoylecgonine, a break down product of cocaine.

Amy Labram, prosecuting, said the alarm was raised when police got a report that a truck driver had been “swerving unnecessarily” in his vehicle as he drove along Botchergate.

They caught up with Leach as he drove along Lowther Street in the city centre.

“The truck puled into the nearside bus lane and carried on at a low speed,” said the prosecutor. “Officers noticed a hand come out of the cab window and drop something. They then located as snap bag on the ground where it seemed something had been disposed of.”

He pulled over near the city’s Lonsdale Street bus station.

Referring to what happened, Miss Labram said: “He had 800mcg of benzoylecgonine in his system. The legal limit is 50mcg. There was also evidence of bad driving - him swerving in the road and there was an attempt to dispose of evidence.”

Chris Toms, for Leach, said police told the defendant there was no poor driving. The lawyer said: “He fully admits to having been a cocaine addict for some years. It’s ruined his life.”

Mr Toms said the prosecution was a wak- up call for Leach, who had engaged with drugs charities.The lawyer added: “He is proudly saying this was his 99th day when he has not taken cocaine - something he could not say for the previous 11 years.” Remorseful, Leach, of Wisbech, Norfolk, now works from home arranging transport solutions.

District Judge Gerald Chalk said: “There was poor driving and a very high level of drugs in your system. Most scary of all you were a professional driver driving a lorry. If that had gone wrong the potential risk for others in the city centre was enormous.” He banned Leach for 24 months, and told him to complete 90s hours of unpaid work in the community. He must pay costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £85.