Durham student's mercy mission led to driving ban

First published in News The Northern Echo: Static HTML image by , Chief Reporter (Durham)

A STUDENT’S unplanned early hours 'mercy mission' to assist a fraught fellow undergraduate landed him with a driving ban.

Elliot Alan Blenkhorn was at the wheel of a car seen swerving across the southbound carriageway entering the A19 at Wellfield, east Durham, at 2.10am on November 15.

He was pulled over by police and failed a roadside breath test, before giving a subsequent reading showing 110mg of alcohol, compared to the legal driving limit of 35, in a further test at the police station.

Twenty-year-old Blenkhorn, of Nevilledale Terrace, Durham, admitted drink driving and was given a 26-month motoring ban by North Durham magistrates earlier this month.

He was also ordered to perform 100-hours unpaid work and pay £145 costs and victim surcharge.

Blenkhorn, of previous good character, appealed against the sentence at Durham Crown Court today (Thursday December 20).

His barrister, Ian West, said the unpaid work element, “could be said to be excessive and unnecessary.”

“He’s a second year business management student at Durham University and was not expecting to drive that evening.

“He had been drinking and received a phone call from a close friend at the university’s Stockton campus who was very upset.

“She suffers stress-related seizures and after a very fraught conversation with him, he took the unwise decision to comfort her in person, rather than over the phone.

“No accident was caused, but the high reading suggests there was an inherent danger in him driving.

“It was not planned but for the peculiar circumstances.”

Mr West said the unpaid work would have a “detrimental effect” on Blenkhorn’s studies, given that he also regularly trains and plays rugby.

Recorder Jonathan Aitken, sitting with two magistrates, said they did not consider it “a genuine emergency”, but given Blenkhorn’s previous good character and prompt admissions they could reduce the amount of unpaid work by 20 hours, taking it to 80 hours.

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