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Drink-driving shame for ‘role model’ Shoeburyness High School teacher
3:30pm Friday 10th August 2012 in Local News
A TEACHER’S career is hanging in the balance, after he crashed his car while more than three times over the alcohol limit.
James Birch, 54, narrowly avoided a jail sentence, when he appeared before Southend magistrates yesterday.
He has been suspended from his job, at Shoebury ness High School, pending a disciplinary hearing to decide his fate.
The court heard he had left the Plough & Sail pub, in London Road, Westcliff , and decided to drive the 250 yard journey home, in his Vauxhall Zafira.
Birch had reached his street, Ramuz Drive, when he collided with a parked Nissan pick-up truck, which then shunted into a Mercedes. He told police he thought he may have swerved to avoid an animal in the road.
A neighbour was at home in bed at about 10.45pm, on June 24, and heard a noise. When he realised it was a crash, he went out to see if anyone was injured.
It was then he saw Birch manoeuvring the car, so the neighbour removed the ignition keys and called the police.
Ian Allen, prosecuting, said: “It was apparent he had been drinking.”
Birch pleaded guilty to driving over the limit – with 131 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35microgrammes.
Micaila Williams, in mitigation, said Birch had been “bemused” by this high reading, as he only drank four pints of Carling. Any reading over 121microgrammes puts a defendant at risk of custody.
Miss Williams said her client realised his behaviour would have a negative impact, particularly as he teaches his pupils there are consequences to bad behaviour.
She added: “He is a role model for his own children and a role model for those at school. All of these things have been lost through his wrong doing.”
Birch sat with his head bowed, as the court heard he was remorseful, had no previous convictions, and two character references were handed to the magistrates.
He was sentenced to an eight week jail term, suspended for a year, three-year driving ban, 180 hours of unpaid work and £85 costs.
Miss Williams said he would now face a disciplinary hearing on September 19, which will decide whether he is fit to keep his job.