A BUS driver who was nearly four times the drink-drive limit when he crashed his vehicle with ten passengers on board has narrowly avoided a prison sentence.
Former soldier Steven Dawson was behind the wheel of his McGill’s coach and collided with the rear of a car in Glasgow’s Bridge Street last month.
When police tracked him down and breath-tested him after he tried to return to his depot in Barrhead, Renfrewshire, he gave a reading of 136 microgrammes. The legal limit is 35.
Dawson, 52, of Balfron Road, Glasgow, told officers he had got himself drunk before starting his shift that morning. He was arrested on the day and held in the cells over the weekend before making an appearance at Paisley Sheriff Court.
When Sheriff David Pender learned about what had happened, he immediately banned him from driving and called for reports to be prepared.
The court was told Dawson had crashed into a car on 8 March and then driven back to the McGill’s depot.
At the depot, an individual who was concerned about what had happened noted a strong smell of alcohol coming from Dawson’s breath and contacted police.
The court heard there had been ten passengers on board at the time of the accident.
“One of the other parties detected a strong smell of alcohol from the accused and contacted police,” depute fiscal Annette Ward said.
“When officers spoke to him, he said, ‘I’ve made a mistake. I was drinking this morning’.”
In court, Dawson admitted driving a public service vehicle while almost four times the legal drink-drive limit. He had also been charged with driving without due care and attention, but the Crown accepted his not-guilty plea to that charge.
At last month’s hearing, defence agent John Gardner said there were underlying issues that required to be addressed and Sheriff Pender said that before he could begin to consider sentencing options, and due to the serious nature of the charge, he would require a detailed background profile.
When Dawson returned to court yesterday to learn his fate, Sheriff Neil Douglas was told that the accused was a former soldier with 20 years’ service in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and the Gulf War, who had suffered combat stress which led him to drink to excess.
Defence solicitor Bob Kerr said his client had been in contact with a veterans’ combat stress unit to have underlying issues addressed and was attending Alcoholics Anonymous for support.
“He fully appreciates the potential danger that was posed in driving a public service vehicle in that condition,” he said. “And he wishes to put things right in his life.”
Sheriff Douglas told Dawson: “To drive a public service vehicle with that amount of alcohol in your system was grossly irresponsible.
“However, I have concluded that, in all of the circumstances here, there are alternatives to custody.”
He made Dawson the subject of a two-year community payback order, requiring him to remain under supervision and to complete 200 hours of unpaid work.
He was also disqualified from driving for three years.