Yesterday the Daily Mail reported that "Teacher drove wrong way up a motorway for seven miles at walking pace while three times over the limit from wine and cocktails”
At first glance, this sentence (6 months suspended and a two year ban) sounds unduly lenient. However, when I read the story in full, I realised that the sentence is actually robust but fair.
The offence of Dangerous Driving is clearly aggravated by the fact that the teacher was very drunk and driving the wrong way along the motorway late at night. Clearly, this offence required a serious sentence but I couldn’t disagree more with the comments of the campaigner against drink-driving in the article. The campaigner called for a “five year ban and a jail sentence”. However, she fails to take into account the mitigating factors in the case. The defendant was driving along the hard shoulder and at a “snail’s pace”. Therefore not quite as dramatic a picture as the tabloid headline seems to infer.
I’m not saying that the defendant shouldn’t be punished. Neither am I saying that her driving wasn’t dangerous. What I am saying is that this incident is actually quite a low-end form of dangerous driving and this is reflected in the six month suspended sentence imposed by the Judge.
A two year ban is in line with the guidelines for an alcohol reading of that level and I am sure that the lady in question has learnt her lesson.
The judge comments on the defendant’s good character and popularity with the parents of the children she teaches. It is likely that many character references assisted in the Judge’s sentencing and rightly so.
It is true that the defendant is a teacher and thus a role model to young people but even teachers make mistakes. The important thing is that she dealt with the mistake properly. She pleaded guilty, probably at a very early stage and she’s being punished for her wrong-doing. In addition to the criminal sentence, it is more than likely that she be subjected to professional disciplinary proceedings and so she has certainly not heard the end of the matter.
We must not forget that this sentence is suspended and so still hangs over her. If she commits any further offence, driving or otherwise in the next two years then this custodial sentence will be triggered and she could still face a custodial sentence.
In my view it is a robust sentence and she should be allowed to get on with her life and continue her good work as a teacher.