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Firefighter Shane Bennett avoids jail after drink-driving just yards from home in Quinnell Street, Rainham

By Lynn Cox

A firefighter found slumped in his car after driving just yards to his home following a session in his local pub, has been handed a suspended sentence for his third drink-drive related offence.

Shane Bennett, 37, was found parked in his street near a play area by police who had been called after he had been seen in the pub downing pints and had then got into his car.

The father-of-two, who lives in Quinnell Street, Rainham, had been in the Manor Farm pub in Rainham High Street, almost opposite his road and only about 100 yards from his home.

Maxwell appeared before magistrates in Medway.
Maxwell appeared before magistrates in Medway.

When police approached him they found him slumped in the car with his chin on his chest and officers noticed vomit down his top.

He was arrested and taken to Medway police station on suspicion of drink-driving and initially complied with officers, but when he was asked to take a breath test, he refused.

He admitted failing to provide a specimen when he appeared before Magistrates’ in Medway last month and returned their for sentencing following reports.

Paul Greene prosecuting, said: “The police could see a male, the defendant, slumped in the driver’s seat with his chin on his chest.

“The keys were still in the ignition, there was sick on his top he was wearing and officers could smell a strong smell of alcohol.

“The officers said his eyes were bulging in his head and he had very large pupils.

“He was slurring his words and incoherently confirmed who he was and was unsteady on his feet when he got out of the car.”

Bennett was arrested but because he had been sick the officers waited 20 minutes to give him a breath test so took him back to the station.

It was also claimed in court Bennett had drunk at least three or four pints in the pub.

Bennett had two previous similar convictions; the first in 1999 for excess alcohol and driving without due care and attention, for which he was given a 12-month ban.

Medway police station
Medway police station

Bennett, who works for the Essex fire service, also had another drink-driving conviction in 2011 when he was disqualified from driving for 18 months.

Richard Doman, defending, said his client had an alcohol problem and had been using drink as a “crutch” to deal with his anxiety and depression he has experienced in his line of work as a firefighter.

Mr Doman said: “It’s the effect of his duties which have had on him. He would drink strong lager, Stella, and accepts he has a dependency on alcohol, this is his wake-up call he is now seeking assistance from professionals.

“He knew he was over the limit, but he disputes he was sick, it was a stupid decision made in drink, he had no need to drive.”

“The keys were still in the ignition, there was sick on his top he was wearing and officers could smell a strong smell of alcohol" - Shane Bennett

Mr Doman also said Bennett was not a station commander as had been previously stated in court.

He added: “Because it was reported last time he was in court, his employer has now started an investigation into gross misconduct.

“He would like to make it absolutely clear he never did such a thing saying he was a station commander.”

Magistrates decided to jail Bennett for 14 days but suspended the term for 24 months and banned him from driving for 35 months because of his level of intoxication.

Bennett was also ordered to complete a alcohol treatment requirement and will be supervised by probation for six months.

He was also ordered to pay £85 court costs.

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