Northern Ireland drink-driver banned after 'tropical juice' put him twice over the limit
A drink-driver who was spotted by police driving a car without lights on claimed he had gulped down "tropical juice", unaware it was actually a pre-mixed alcoholic cocktail.
Ashley Watson (27) from Beechcroft in Ballymoney was detected driving with excess alcohol in his breath in the Co Antrim town at 1.45am on Sunday, November 11 this year.
At Coleraine Magistrates Court yesterday the construction worker pleaded guilty to the charge.
A prosecutor said police attention was drawn to the defendant's vehicle because its lights were not illuminated and it then emerged he had a reading of 72 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35 mcg.
Defence solicitor Denise Gillan said Watson was getting married before Christmas and his fiancee was in court with him.
Referring to the build-up to the forthcoming nuptials, the solicitor said: "It should have been one of the happiest occasions in my client's life but his life has been marred by this episode."
She explained Watson's fiancee was having her hen party and as there was a 'pre-do' in his house, the defendant had walked to a bar and had two or three pints before walking home.
He then decided to wait up for his fiancee to return home and rang a pizza delivery firm in Coleraine to get something to eat for them, but as the limit of their service was outside Ballymoney he thought he was all right to drive a few miles to make the collection.
However, before he left he had spotted a carton of "tropical juice" to "quench his thirst" but only learned the next day it was a "pre-mixed cocktail" brought earlier by one of the hen party.
As he had been drinking earlier, he did not detect the taste of alcohol in it, said Ms Gillan, who added that the defendant would not knowingly have driven if he thought he was over the limit.
District Judge Peter King said the first temptation was to "make light" of the circumstances, but he couldn't ignore the fact that the defendant was twice the legal drink limit.
Thankfully, nobody was injured, said the judge, who banned Watson from driving for 16 months and fined him £300.
He told the defendant: "I hope this is a salutary lesson to you."