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'Catastrophically drunk' Coleraine man couldn't get taxi because he had horse with him, court told

By Nevin Farrell

Published 15/12/2015

Coleraine showjumper Walter Stewart
Coleraine showjumper Walter Stewart
Coleraine showjumper Walter Stewart

A Northern Ireland man caught driving while "catastrophically drunk" claimed he could not get a taxi home because he had a horse with him.

Top showjumper Walter Jacob Stewart (33), a farrier of Boghill Road, Coleraine, was stopped at Garryduff Road near Ballymoney on October 24 by police who were waiting to pounce.

They had received a report from a road user saying a vehicle pulling a horsebox was swerving across one of Northern Ireland's busiest routes, between Ballymena and Ballymoney.

The vehicle was reportedly crossing the middle of the road, causing oncoming traffic to take evasive action at Frosses Road before it turned off onto the Garryduff Road.

There, police saw it come round a corner on the wrong side of the road, the prosecution told Coleraine Magistrates Court.

The officers pulled over the vehicle, which was being driven by Stewart who smelt of liquor and was unsteady on his feet.

He had an alcohol/breath reading of 91mg per 100ml of breath. The legal limit is 35.

A defence lawyer said Stewart had been with his brother to buy a showjumping horse and met the people involved in a restaurant.

But after an argument with his brother, who was meant to have been driving, Stewart "was left with the horse, horsebox and jeep".

She said her client was on the way home and thought at the time he was fine to drive and said he would have got a taxi "but for the fact he had a horse in a horsebox".

She claimed a tyre blowout on the horsebox made driving difficult and contributed to the standard of driving.

She said Stewart wished to apologise to the court and the public for his "foolish and stupid actions" and the risk he had put himself and other drivers in.

Deputy District Judge Sean O'Hare said Stewart was "catastrophically drunk" and there was no way he should have been anywhere near a vehicle with the amount of alcohol he had consumed.

The judge said that with the high alcohol reading and the poor quality of driving, his initial reaction was to ban him from driving for two years. But with the guilty plea he reduced it to 18 months and said although the ban may have an effect on Stewart's business "that's entirely down to you".

The judge added: "It is a very very high reading and a very bad piece of driving". Stewart was also fined £500 at the court on Monday.

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