Deputy head taints unblemished record

tis. Harrogate Magistrates Court. 311208ARpic14.
tis. Harrogate Magistrates Court. 311208ARpic14.

A RETIRED deputy headteacher put the first blemish on a 55-year motoring record the night he had one extra drink with friends to catch up on events after he had missed get-togethers through illness.

When 79-year-old Gerald John Tate Johnston pleaded guilty to drink-driving at Harrogate Magistrates’ Court last Thursday prosecutor Steven Ovenden said he had been five micrograms over the limit when a breath test was administered at Harrogate police station on the evening of April 6, something over which he had expressed shock and surprise.

Mr Ovenden said Johnston had declined the statutory option of a blood test offered to those whose breath-alcohol level was not far over the limit. He accepted the 40 reading – the level at which prosecution kicked in despite the limit being 35 micrograms – had been valid and accurate.

The court heard police had been waiting for Johnston when he turned his silver Toyota Yaris into the drive of his home in St Leonard’s Oval after his car had been parked in Kirkgate, Knaresborough.

In mitigation Geoffrey Rogers said Johnston, who had been a motorist since 1957 without any previous licence endorsement, had not come to police notice through any poor or erratic driving. Police had received a telephone call which led officers to be waiting for him.

Mr Rogers said Johnston visited a club in Knaresborough once a fortnight to meet friends and though he drove he was very, very careful about what he drank.

He had been ill with a viral infection and after a fall in the period before his offence. He had gone several weeks without seeing his friends and spent longer than usual with them after he recovered. He had been ‘‘catching up’’ and because of that had an extra drink.

Mr Rogers said Johnston, for whom the breath-test reading had been a huge shock, might well have been below the limit by the time a doctor had been called to the police station, if he had taken up the blood test option.

‘‘But he decided he did not want to trouble anybody or cause any problems for the police,’’ Mr Rogers added.

Court chairman Michael Jefferies fined Johnston £250 with £85 costs, a £15 victim surcharge and a one-year driving ban and told him: ‘‘We accept your driving in the past has been exemplary and there was no suggestion your driving at this time was greatly impaired.’’

But the law was very strict on drink-driving and because he was over the limit the court had no option but to impose the minimum length of disqualification.