A YOUNG motorist whose car crashed and overturned on Boxing Day on a country road near Penrith was drug driving.

The BMW car being driven by 21-year-old Isla Harfield shortly before midnight on December 26 last year collided with a drystone wall before ending up on its side, magistrates heard. 

A blood test later confirmed there were traces of cannabis and a cocaine breakdown product in her system, though the defendant was over the limit only for the latter substance.

At Carlisle's Rickergate court, Harfield, of Carleton Hall Gardens, Penrith, pleaded guilty to driving while over the prescribed limit for benzoylecgonine (BZE).

Prosecutor Peter Kelly outlined the facts.

He said that police were called out to the scene of the accident at 11.50pm, having been told that only a single vehicle was involved in the incident.

Harfield had been driving her BMW 3 series car along a single track road at Wetheriggs towards Cliburn, when she lost control. When police arrived she told them that she had hit the grass very and “lost control” before colliding with a wall.

“She was apologetic and indicated that she had suffered a serious hand injury as well,” said Mr Kelly. A roadside drug test produced a positive result and this led to a later blood sample being taken at hospital.

This confirmed that there was some THC – the substance found in blood after people use cannabis, but it was not above the legal limit. But BZE was present at 16 times the permitted limit.

Harfield was a woman of previous good character, the court heard.

Mairi Clancy, defending, told magistrates: “This was a very frightening incident for the defendant, a woman of good character. Apart from being a frightening incident, in which she was injured, it ended her job as a delivery driver.”

The lawyer said Harfield, who was not charged with careless or dangerous driving, had driven along the road within the speed limit when she encountered another vehicle coming towards the BMW on her side of the road.

“She therefore swerved to avoid that,” continued Ms Clancy. “This incident took place just before midnight on Boxing Day.

“She’d been out with friends on Christmas Eve.

“At least 40 hours before the incident, she accepts she was using cocaine on Christmas Eve, believing that because two days had elapsed since she used drugs that she would not be over the limit.

“She was quite right in respect of cocaine; for cocaine, she was not over the limit. But I’d suggest that ordinary people would not know if you are not over the limit for cocaine, you can be over the limit for BZE.”

She added that there was no evidence that the cocaine breakdown product had impaired the defendant’s driving.

A probation officer told the court Harfield reported that she was no longer using drugs and she had expressed remorse. Magistrates imposed a 12-month community order with 180 hours of unpaid work.

Harfield was given a two year driving ban and must pay £85 costs and a £114 victim surcharge. The lead magistrate noted that there had been a passenger in the car when she crashed.

He told her: “You are still a young age and there is immaturity involved and you perhaps didn’t understand the consequences of your actions,  but anybody who takes illegal substances and drives is playing with fire.”