Fri, 29 Nov 2019
A THATCHAM drink-driver has narrowly escaped a prison sentence for endangering schoolchildren.
The father of two was more than three times the legal alcohol limit when members of the public saw the way he was driving and raised the alarm.
Reading magistrates heard on Thursday that there would have been children streaming out of school at the time he was caught at a McDonald’s restaurant drive-thru in Pinchington Lane, Newbury.
In the dock was 60-year-old Gary Ritchings, an international courier who lives at Eliot Close.
Anne Sawyer-Brandish, prosecuting, said: “Police received calls from members of the public that a motorist who had just visited the Timpson store in Pinchington Lane appeared intoxicated.”
Police stopped Mr Ritchings at the McDonald’s drive-thru, where he failed a breath test.
Mr Ritchings admitted driving a Vauxhall Vivaro after drinking more than the legal limit around 4pm on Saturday, November 2.
He has previously received a suspended prison sentence and a 32-month ban for a drink-driving offence in 2007, the court heard.
A probation officer told the court that jailing Mr Ritchings would have a “devastating” effect on him.
She said he had been out drinking with friends the night before and that the extremely high alcohol reading was residual from the previous night’s binge.
The probation officer added that Mr Ritchings was “very remorseful for his actions and regrets the decision he made”.
She explained that Mr Ritchings had been going to collect his vehicle from where it had been parked the previous night and, although he felt hungover, had thought he was all right to drive.
Dudley Beal, defending, said his client would now lose his courier job as a result of the inevitable ban.
Magistrates pointed out that, at the time Mr Ritchings was arrested, McDonald’s would have been surrounded by schoolchildren who had just finished classes for the day.
Another aggravating factor was the “very, very high” alcohol reading, they said, which had caused them to seriously consider imposing a custodial sentence.
Mr Ritchings was made subject to a 12-month community order with up to 12 days’ rehabilitation activity requirement.
In addition, he was ordered to carry out 150 hours unpaid community work and to pay £85 costs, plus a statutory victim services surcharge of £90.
Finally, Mr Ritchings was banned from driving for 30 months.