A campaign to clamp down on drink-drivers in Harrogate in the run up to Christmas has already seen offenders stripped of their licences and handed hefty fines.
The Harrogate Advertiser has joined forces with North Yorkshire Police for its Christmas Safety Campaign, calling on drivers not to drink and drive.
And this week, our reporter was in court as people were stripped of their licences after admitting drink-driving on the district’s roads.
“Last week’s arrests have been in court already,” said Temp Insp Paul Cording, of the Harrogate Roads Policing Group (RPG).
“Be under no illusion, if we catch you drink-driving, we intend to take your licence off you before Christmas.
“If you plan to drive to see your family this Christmas, think again about drinking before you drive.”
Among those appearing before magistrates in Harrogate on Tuesday were a retired solicitor, a store manager, a dedicated father and a young singer.
All expressed their remorse and sorrow as they were stripped of their driving licences.
“The impact of physically handing over your licence is a huge reality check,” said Insp Cording.
“You will be disqualified from driving, you will have a criminal record.
“People who make the decision to drink and drive really need to think about the consequences.”
Insp Cording, as well as having seen first-hand the devastating impact drink-driving can have, has a more personal reason to highlight this campaign.
A friend of his, a former RAF colleague from Hampshire, was in a crash with a driver high on drink and drugs.
“They had two daughters, a 10-year-old and a 14-year-old,” said Insp Cording.
“They were reversing out of their drive when a driver, high on drink and drugs, came hurtling down the road and wrote it off.
“Evey, who was 10, was killed. Her older sister was watching from the window. Her mum was left in a coma. Her dad had to make the decision to turn off the life support machine.
“Evey’s organs have been given to six other children. That gives the family some comfort.
“There’s always the thought ‘it won’t happen to me’. But that is a very real possibility. Don’t put yourself in that situation.
“Get a taxi.”
REPORTS FROM THE COURTS Store manager
A “deeply embarrassed” store manager from Harrogate found himself before the courts after his partner called time on his drink-driving.
James Falkingham, 29, who has a four-year-old daughter with his long-term girlfriend, was arrested on Bogs Lane on November 20 after she told police he was driving under the influence.
Appearing before magistrates in Harrogate on Tuesday he admitted it had all been part of a prank gone wrong - he had been trying to hide the car they shared after a furious family row.
“They had been having a few drinks while watching the England match on TV,” said his solicitor. “But that evening they had an argument.
“He made the decision to drive the car a couple of streets away to make it difficult for his partner to find the car in the morning.
“She was worried he was going to do something silly and called the police.”
This was completely out of character for the family man, said his solicitor, adding that he was a manager of a local Boots store.
“This is the first time he has ever been in a court,” she said. “He’s never had so much as a parking ticket.
“He’s deeply embarrassed to find himself before the court.”
Falkingham, arrested on foot with his car keys in his pocket, admitting driving from his home in Regent Mount.
A breath test at the roadside put him at nearly twice the legal drink-drive limit - he measured 62 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35.
Magistrates disqualified him from driving for 16 months, and fined him £475.
A retired solicitor, arrested at his home address in Pannal, was reported to police by a stranger concerned about his “erratic” driving on the A61.
Father-of-three Peter James Wignall, 53, was found to be well over the drink-drive limit when he was later breathalysed at his Pannal Avenue home by police on October 11. Appearing before magistrates in Harrogate on Tuesday, he admitted he had enjoyed a “couple of pints” at the Lord Darcy pub in Leeds before driving home shortly before 7pm that evening. He denied driving erratically, magistrates were told, but the manner of his driving had been enough to prompt a concerned member of the public to call police and follow him home.
When tested, he was found to have 139 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. The legal limit is 80.
“He’s very embarrassed about appearing before the court,” said his solicitor, revealing that Wignall himself had been a solicitor until he was made redundant five years ago. “He is a man of previous good character. He’s never been arrested prior to this. He feels that he’s made a regrettable mistake.
“He is also concerned about the amount of alcohol he had been drinking. Since that incident he’s not consumed any alcohol whatsoever.”
Magistrates disqualified Wignall from driving for 16 months, fining him £525. As he left the court he apologised to the bench for “wasting their time”.
Since the launch of the campaign on December 1, there have been 36 arrests in North Yorkshire. Eight of those were in the Harrogate district. Two have already appeared before the courts. Three have been charged.
n A 20-year-old was arrested early on Saturday morning after a crash on Cold Bath Road. The Harrogate man was arrested after giving a positive breath test at the roadside at 8.05am. He has been released on bail as enquiries continue.
n A Boroughbridge man was arrested after a single-car crash on the Ripon Road at Killinghall in the early hours of Sunday morning. The 20-year-old was arrested at the scene and has been bailed as police await test results.
n Two more people, a 37-year-old woman, driving on Deane Place at 1.30am on Sunday morning, and a 71-year-old arrested in Knaresborough on December 3, were later released without charge.