Court hears Ballymena health centre receptionist was over the limit when she crashed at car park on way into work

A HEALTH centre receptionist with a high alcohol reading crashed into a vehicle in the car park on her way to work and a judge said it was fortunate she had not hit a pedestrian.

Michelle Neeson (44), of Eaton Fields in Ballymena, was detected at Ballymena Health and Care Centre on December 5 last year, the town’s Magistrates Court was told on Thursday.

A prosecutor said she had an evidential reading of 137 micrograms of alcohol per 100ml of breath – the legal limit is 35 micrograms.

The defendant initially gave a preliminary reading of 167 micrograms.

Previously she pleaded guilty to a charge of driving with excess alcohol in her breath.

At the earlier court, District Judge Nigel Broderick said he was adjourning the case for a report so he could “consider all options” as it was a “serious” matter given the very high reading.

At court on Thursday a prosecutor said before police arrived at the scene the defendant was with staff who believed she was intoxicated.

The court heard the defendant had made a number of attempts to park and hit another vehicle.

When interviewed she told police she had been going to work and had a glass and a half of wine that morning after drinking the night before.

A defence solicitor said the defendant had a “very responsible job” and had expressed “shame” at her actions.

Judge Broderick said it was “extremely dangerous” for anyone to be behind the wheel of a car when so intoxicated.

He told the defendant: “In some ways you are fortunate only to have hit another parked car. If you had hit a pedestrian in the car park, or worse, then you would be facing a custodial sentence”.

The judge acknowledged she had a previous clear record but said the courts had to “send a very clear message especially when the reading is so high”.

He banned the defendant from driving for 20 months and she will have to re-sit her test if she wishes to get back on the road.

She was also ordered to do 80 hours of Community Service.

Judge Broderick certified the defendant for the drink driver course which he said was “important in terms of protecting the public in the future”.

He said if that course is completed the disqualification period would be reduced by a quarter.

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