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Reading Magistrates' Court: judge jails serial Thatcham drink-driver to protect public

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A COURT rejected a drink-driver’s plea for mercy and sent him straight to prison.

District judge Sophie Toms told the man he posed a “huge” risk to the public following his third conviction for drink-driving.

On this latest occasion, 61-year-old Gary John Richings – who was still disqualified from a previous drink-drive offence – was barely able to stand and he wet himself in public before trying to stagger back to his vehicle.

Alistair Yapp, prosecuting at Reading Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, March 31, said witnesses called police after watching in horror as Mr Richings, who lives at Eliot Close, Thatcham, fell out of his Saab 9-3 Turbo outside a take-away in the town centre while the engine was still running.

He said: “He stumbled around before getting back in and trying to drive off.

“However, he had left the hand brake on so the car lurched back and forth.

“Mr Richings then got out again and stumbled into the take-away.

“He appeared to wet himself before again stumbling back into the vehicle and driving off.”

Mr Richings admitted driving after drinking more than the legal limit on October 3 last year.

Tests showed 116mcg of alcohol per 100ml of breath in his system – more than three times the legal limit of 35mcg.

He further admitted driving while disqualified and driving without insurance on the same occasion in the Saab which he had bought even while banned from the roads.

In November 2019 this newspaper reported how Mr Richings narrowly avoided immediate imprisonment for one of his previous drink-driving offences, again more than three times the limit and at a time when schoolchildren were walking nearby.

At the latest hearing Zoe Spencer, defending, said her client had intended to sell on the Saab for a profit rather than drive it illegally.

She said he had lost his job as a courier and was £20,000 in debt.

However, added Ms Spencer, he had now faced up to the fact he had a drinking problem, was seeking professional help and saw “light at the end of the tunnel”.

She pleaded with the court to suspend any prison sentence once more.

But district judge Toms said: “Some cases that come before this court are so serious that only an immediate custodial sentence can be justified.

“You have three drink-driving convictions and this is the second within 12 months.

“You were massively over the limit and clearly seriously impaired.

“The risk to the public was huge.”

She added: “Had you been involved in an accident you could well have killed someone going about their daily business.

“You bought this vehicle during a driving ban.

“This is one of those cases where I must impose an immediate custodial sentence.

“I find there is no realistic prospect of rehabilitation in the community as you have had a community order before.”

District judge Toms jailed Mr Richings for 16 weeks, half of which will be spent in custody and the remainder in the community on licence.

In addition, Mr Richings was ordered to pay £85 costs, plus a statutory victim services surcharge of £128.

Finally, he was banned from driving for 38 months.

Mr Richings nodded to his son-in-law in the public gallery as he was placed in handcuffs and district judge Toms said: “Dock officers, you can take him down.”

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