Drink drive offence tinged with tragedy

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A MOTORIST who swerved dangerously across a main road while more than three times the drink drive limit had suffered an “emotional breakdown” following a string of personal tragedies, a court heard.

Elaine Cowap was spotted careering across Wigan Lane in her Audi A3 on July 1, before swerving onto the opposite side of the road towards oncoming traffic.

Wigan Magistrates’ Court heard how the 48-year-old somehow managed to safely park her car on her drive but was so drunk she then struggled to open the front door.

Mike Ardern, prosecuting, told how Cowap was followed by a concerned witness - Mr Gibson - shortly after 6pm after she cut in front of him and swerved across two lanes.

Mr Gibson then called 999 after watching Cowap’s car swerve onto the opposite side of the road.

He followed her to the roundabout near the Cherry Gardens pub and back in the opposite direction.

After Cowap turned into the driveway of her Wigan Lane home, Mr Gibson told how she appeared to struggle to get the key in the front door.

When police arrived at the address they found Cowap crying in one of the downstairs rooms. Her speech was slurred and she smelt of alcohol.

Following her arrest, she gave a reading of 124mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath. The limit is just 35.

In interview, she accepted that she had had too much to drink but claimed to have downed a large glass of wine after returning home - despite the police arriving just six minutes later.

Cowap revealed that she had been driving to and from Gidlow Cemetery following the shock death of her sister-in-law. She had also lost her mother to cancer in March.

Andrew Stock, defending, said his client had not only struggled to come to terms with the loss of her mother and sister-in-law but her businesses had been under pressure too.

He told how Cowap and her family had suffered a very stressful time and had found out that her cousin was also terminally ill on the day of the drink drive arrest.

Mr Stock admitted that she had suffered an “emotional breakdown” that day but had never disputed that she was over the limit.

Magistrates told Cowap: “You’ve had an horrendous time and the bench really feel for you. However, the reading obtained following this offence was an extremely high one. When you were in that condition your vehicle became a lethal weapon.”

They banned her from driving for 29 months and ordered her to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and pay £85 costs and a £60 victim surcharge.