A company director caught three times over the legal alcohol limit by police blocking the Whaley Bridge dam that flooded claimed a breathlyser endorsed by Sir Stirling Moss told him he was okay to drive.
David Howell, 59, was arrested after demanding officers let him go through the road block put in place following the Whaley Bridge dam floods in August last year.
He told police he needed to retrieve some possessions from his office but they soon became suspicious and asked him to complete a breath test.
The father-of-one, of Adlington, Cheshire, said he had drunk some whiskey but a £49.99 breathalyser endorsed by Formula One legend Sir Stirling Moss told him his alcohol levels were ‘low’.
He said at the scene: ‘I wouldn’t drive the morning after, neither would I let my family, without first checking ourselves with AlcoSense.
‘I abide by it, that’s the be all and end all – and will not drive until the machines says I have the all clear.’
Howell pleaded with Magistrates in Stockport to let him keep his licence, claiming he would suffer ‘exceptional hardship’ if he was banned, but he was disqualified from driving for 40 months.
David Howell, 59, was banned from driving after demanding police officers let him go through the road block put in place during the Whaley Bridge dam floods and failing a breath test in August last year
The incident occurred on August 3 2019 after Howell, who runs an engineer merchants in Whaley Bridge, had attempted to drive his black Ford Transit van into the town centre despite fears the dam wall at neighbouring Toddbrook Reservoir (pictured) would burst due to heavy rain
He had previously been banned from driving for 18 months in 2012 after his own son tipped police off that he was drunk behind the wheel.
The incident occurred on August 3 2019 after Howell, who runs an engineer merchants in Whaley Bridge, had attempted to drive his black Ford Transit van into the town centre despite fears the dam wall at neighbouring Toddbrook Reservoir would burst due to heavy rain.
The father-of-one, of Adlington, Cheshire, said he had drunk some whiskey but a £49.99 breathalyser called ‘Alcosense’ endorsed by Formula One legend Sir Stirling Moss told him his alcohol levels were ‘low’
The businessman, who has helped run his family firm for 41 years, claimed he wanted to check on his stock and retrieve documents but became ‘agitated and animated’ with police when he came up against a road block.
PC Kirsty Mellor told Stockport Magistrates Court: ‘Due to the dam incident there were road closure on every part of Whaley Bridge and we had to turn a lot of motorists away.
‘I was turning traffic away when this one particular male came up very animated. he seemed drunk and was slurring their words, quite over the top with arms flailing around.
‘I said ‘I can’t have traffic backing up – move on’ but he pulled up around 50 yards away and got out approached where I was.
‘He was steadying himself on a lamppost and I thought he was drunk as he was stumbling, slurring his words and animated.
‘The fact is he was drawing attention to himself – he could have driven past and no one would have known anything about it. He was argumentative about not being allowed to go back in said he couldn’t get to his property and became upset.
‘I would place him about a seven out of ten on the scale of being quite noticeably drunk.
‘He had to steady himself and I approached him to speak and could see he was either unwell or drunk and could smell alcohol on his breath.’
Police are pictured putting in road blocks in Whaley Bridge amid fears over the Toddbrook Reservoir
Tests showed Howell had 92 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.
He told magistrates: ‘I had been on a drink-driving awareness course in 2012 and it was advised and recommended that I use this particular device which is endorsed by Stirling Moss.
‘Every time I knew I had, had a drink the night before I would test myself. That night the business had all my personal possessions and I was just extremely anxious – especially when I turned the news on and a helicopter was dropping bags in the over flow of the dam.
Pictured: Formula One legend and former racing driver Sir Stirling Moss
‘I had been sipping whiskey when he I was watching the TV reports but I stopped drinking at 4.30am that morning. Between then and going to Whaley Bridge I did absolutely not consume anymore alcohol.
‘Before I left I used the self testing breathalyser and the reading was low which I thought means I was completely okay to drive.
‘The machine told me I was okay. I just wanted to collect my premises certificates, certificates of insurance, and plans for the buildings in case they where all washed away.
‘The place had been evacuated so I saw no reason for anyone other than the police who needed to go into Whaley Bridge.
‘I simply don’t understand that 14 to 15 hours later after drank whiskey that I blew over the alcohol limit.
‘I trusted in this machine and trust myself to know when I’m drunk. Machines don’t lie and I was confident that my machine was right.’
Defence lawyer Lisa Morton said: ‘He did attend a course and they recommended devices available to buy and which would enable him to take a reading at home.
‘He had bought himself one of these items and did conduct his own test that day before setting off.
‘At the time he had to leave the long term family business and all his business stock and was stuck at home watching the news and seeing regular updates on whether the dam is going to burst.
‘Even the Prime Minister visited the area and helicopters where dropping sand bags and other various items. During that time my client is in a state of some stress and consuming whiskey.
Sandbags are pictured trying to limit damage done by heavy rain and flooding at the Whaley Bridge dam
‘The next morning locals were told there was a short window for them to collect some belongings but he didn’t do that as he and realised he was going to be over the limit for driving.
‘At about 5.30pm he was told there is possibility to collect some belongings and he was concerned about business documents that would be irretrievable if the dam burst.
‘Rightly or wrongly he relied on that reading from the device which was suggested that he was low in alcohol and he took the decision to go over there. When he gets there gets to the road block in a state of some distress because of what is going on.
‘He realises now he should not have placed reliance upon this home brought device.’
Howell pleaded guilty to drink-driving and was further sentenced to a 12 month community order which includes treatment on a six months alcohol programme.
He was also made subject of a 7pm-7am curfew for eight weeks and was ordered to £175 in costs and surcharges.
Sentencing chairman of the bench Mrs Lynn Moores told him: ‘We do have some sympathy with the position you find yourself in nevertheless you have pleaded guilty and was a relatively high reading.’
The company that manufactures the gadget claims it is is accurate to within 0.02 per cent of the reading.