A BANNED motorist risked both his life and that of his five-year-old son during a "reckless and dangerous" journey on the M6 near Carlisle.

Stuart Sutcliffe, 43, who was driving on the motorway towards Carlisle while "highly intoxicated," was seen taking his Ford Ranger the wrong way along a slip-road into Southwaite Service Station.

His driving was so bad that a lorry driver who encountered him at the services intervened, and asked if he had been drinking, Carlisle Crown Court heard.

Sutcliffe later admitted disqualified driving, having no insurance, failing to provide a breath specimen for analysis, and being in charge of a motor vehicle while unfit through drink. 

Prosecutor Brendan Burke outlined the facts.

He said fellow motorists noticed the defendant’s Ford Ranger as Sutcliffe drove the car northwards along the M6 on May 7 last year, at one stage cutting “abruptly” across the path of a lorry while overtaking.

“Mr Young [the lorry driver] thought that was discourteous but thought no more about it,” said Mr Burke.

But as he arrived at Southwaite Services, the lorry driver spoke to a fellow trucker who had seen Sutcliffe’s car perform a U-turn on the slip road while driving in the wrong direction.

The driver then encountered the defendant, and he was so concerned that he approached him and asked if he had been drinking.

“He denied that but then started crying and apologising,” said Mr Burke. The lorry driver tried to help, suggesting that Sutcliffe should have a sleep before driving again.

Despite this, Sutcliffe drove off again with his son, though there was also a dog in the car, said Mr Burke. Police were alerted and found the Ford Ranger parked in Carlisle's Warwick Road Tesco car park.

Sutcliffe was asleep.

The police officers had to make considerable efforts to rouse him, the court heard. “It was clear that he was intoxicated,” continued Mr Burke, who described how the defendant twice verbally abused the police officers dealing with him.

He was taken to the city's Durranhill Police HQ. “Police also had to take the boy, who was crying and distressed and complaining that his father had been driving really fast,” added Mr Burke. The defendant later refused to emerge from his cell to take a breath test.

The court heard that Sutcliffe, of Church Place, Halifax, Calderdale, had 32 convictions on his record, which included previous drink driving offences and failing to provide a specimen.

Jeff Smith, defending, accepted that the court could have been dealing with an incident that led to the deaths of multiple people on the motorway, including the defendant and his son.

“The most revealing comment I have heard is that alcohol and Stuart Sutcliffe are not good friends,” said Mr Smith. “He knows that he can not drink in the future.”

Judge Nicholas Barker suggested that Sutcliffe lived in a fantasy world and was unwilling to tell the truth about what he had done. He had driven in a “dangerous way” – to such an extent a lorry driver saw fit to intervene.

His “bizarre” behaviour – including a claim that he was in the SAS – had demonstrated a “deep-seated tendency” to fabricate", said the judge.

The lorry driver had acted as a responsible citizen, confronted as he was by the defendant acting in a “wildly irresponsible and reckless way.”

The judge dismissed the defendant’s claim he had consumed only a couple of bottles of lager, and other “excuses” of repeatedly offered from the dock for what he had done.

“You were highly intoxicated,” said the judge, telling Sutcliffe that there could be no excuses for what he did, driving in that state in a "reckless and dangerous  way" with his son, and then verbally abusing two police officers.

“You were obstructive, abusive and truculent,” pointed out the judge. He handed Sutcliffe a 24-week jail term, suspended for 18 months. The sentence incudes 180 hours of unpaid work, 15 rehabilitation activity days, and four months of tagged alcohol abstinence.

The judge also banned the defendant from driving for 48 months.