Court told of drink-drive councillor's previous ban

A SENIOR councillor who was caught drink-driving in Edinburgh had already been banned for the same offence.

East Lothian councillor Jacquie Bell pleaded guilty yesterday to driving while more than twice the legal limit on Gilmerton Road on June 6.

Councillor Bell stepped down from her cabinet post at the health and social care department - as well as from committees with NHS Lothian and East Lothian Licensing Forum - in the days following her arrest but has pledged to continue to work as an elected member representing Dunbar, West Barns and East Linton.

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At Edinburgh Sheriff Court, sentence was deferred until July 21 for social inquiry reports after a sheriff heard she had served a ban for drink-driving in 2002.

The court heard that in the latest incident, a roadside test revealed she had 82 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35 microgrammes.

Today, one political rival described her actions as "very serious" and said her position as a councillor could become "very difficult".

Labour councillor Norman Hampshire, who represents the same ward as Cllr Bell, said: "We don't know all the facts at this time and all we know is what we have read in the papers that she was caught drink-driving.

"To do it once you could argue was a mistake, but twice? She obviously knew she was drinking alcohol and got into her car for a second time, which is really serious.

"She was drink-driving at twice the legal limit so it's lucky no one was hurt during the incident, and I don't understand how as a councillor she can she speak to young people and appeal to them not to drink and drive or abuse alcohol.

"How can she now go into schools and speak about the dangers of drink-driving? Her position as a councillor will be very difficult, and I don't know how the community will look at it."

In a statement last week, Cllr Bell, a three-time Lib Dem Westminster candidate, said "due to personal circumstances" she had decided to quit her cabinet post.

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Her departure was accepted with immediate effect and came one year after a reshuffle saw her promoted to cabinet from the backbenches for the first time.

In one of her first public engagements, Cllr Bell helped publicise a drugs and alcohol strategy for East and Midlothian alongside Fergus Ewing MSP. At the time, she spoke of the "serious effects" substances can have on young people, families and communities.

Born in Sheffield, Cllr Bell has worked in social services for almost 30 years including stints as an instructor to the mentally ill and as a mental handicap resource worker for Lothian Region and Midlothian Council. She is currently employed as a social worker at Liberton Hospital in Edinburgh.