Judge describes the actions of Lewis Robert McDonald as the “height of irresponsibility”
A drunk coach driver has been jailed for nine months after he took his passengers on a ‘terrifying’ 70- mile journey.
Mold Crown Court heard how the 49-seater coach, driven by Lewis Robert McDonald of St Helens, swayed from side to side as it headed down a motorway. Booked by the PTA of Madras Primary School, at Penley near Wrexham, the 30 adults and four teenagers had been on a shopping trip to Liverpool One on November 10 last year.
Headmistress Lynda Houston told how on the M53 he drove in the middle lane at about 20 mph. Then on the A483 other cars had to take evasive action and sound their horns as the 69-year-old defendant changed lanes a number of times for no apparent reason.
A passenger told how he turned off the dual carriageway and drove the wrong way around a roundabout. As the coach approach Overton, passengers shouted at him to slow down due to his speed on the tight bends at the bridge over the Dee, fearing they would end up in the river.
When the coach eventually stopped, a motorist who had followed for 15 miles and whose wife had contacted the police jumped on board and seized the coach ignition keys to prevent McDonald driving any further.
Police arrived and arrested him, and McDonald said: “That’s me finished.”
A breath test three hours after he set off from Liverpool showed he had 58 microgrammes of alcohol in his breath compared to the legal limit of 35. He said he had not touched a drop of alcohol for weeks but had a relapse. McDonald said he had returned home and had a couple of tumblers of whisky and coke.
“You have one and then you have two, don’t you,” he told police. Defending barrister Oliver King said his client would never get behind the wheel again. McDonald, a coach driver for 40 years, admitted dangerous driving and drink driving. Banned from driving for two years, he was also ordered to take an extended re-test before he drives again.
Judge Rhys Rowlands said it “beggars belief you started drinking knowing that you were taking a coach with passengers back from Liverpool to Penley”.
“Passengers became more and more concerned with people shouting at you during the latter part of the journey to get back onto the correct side of the road.”
He added: “You had far too much to drink and then to drive a coach is the height of irresponsibility. You were responsible for your 34 passengers, most of them parents of young children.”
The judge also noted, worryingly, McDonald had told a probation officer he did not believe his driving had been affected by his drinking or that he had placed anyone at risk by his behaviour.
Asked to confirm details of Mr McDonald’s employer, North Wales Police told CBW the force was unable to comment on the story.