Head groom banned for turning around car in Northamptonshire car park while almost five times over the limit

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The head groom of a Northamptonshire hunt has been banned from driving for three years after she moved a car while almost five times over the limit.

Sally Thomas, aged 50, who lives at the Pytchley Hunt Kennels in Brixworth, was arrested by police after a member of the public, who noticed she had been drinking, saw her then drive the vehicle a short distance in convenience store car park.

When an officer searched her, she had a bottle of clear alcohol hidden in the crotch of her trousers.

Magistrates heard yesterday that officers breathalysed her at the police station where she gave a reading of 168 mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath, when the legal limit is 35mg. She had given a higher, unspecified, reading at the scene, the court heard.

Chair of the bench Christopher Gold said: “It was an extremely high reading. It was almost off the scale.

“There were people about and, with that much alcohol in your system, anything could have happened.

“There could have been a pedestrian or a mother and child walking by.”

Defending her, Jennifer Evans said Thomas - who pleaded guilty to drink driving on December 10 - had been celebrating a day off work with friends and had been drinking wine and gin and tonics.

Her husband, who works under her for the hunt, was called out to put down a horse and dropped her off on the way at the Co-op store in Hunter’s Way, continuing on himself with a yardsman in another vehicle.

Mrs Evans said that Thomas decided to turn the car around “so her husband would be able to leave quickly” when he arrived back.

Mrs Evans said: “It was one of those split second decisions that can alter the course of the next few years.”

The solicior said the offence was in a car park rather while driving home, for example, but conceded that it was a public place and for the purposes of the offence “may as well have been a road.”

Thomas was given a 12 month prison sentence suspended for one year.

She was also handed a three-year driving ban and ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work.