AN ex-soldier who went out drinking because it was his first Christmas away from his child has been banned from driving for 28 months and ordered to complete 160 hours unpaid work after he was caught driving home.

Lee Thompson, 28, of Langdale Avenue in Crook, was found to have 117mcg of alcohol in 100mll of breath, magistrates in Newton Aycliffe were told.

Thompson, who was in the army for six years and served in Iraq, was stopped by police in his Seat Ibiza on West Road in Crook at 1am on December 27.

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Prosecutor Michael Rose said police had some minor concerns about the way Thompson was driving and stopped him to provide advice.

But they quickly realised he was drunk so he was arrested, the court heard.

Andrew Clinton in mitigation said Thompson had been out drinking to drown his sorrows as it was his first Christmas without his four-year-old child after he and his partner split up.

Mr Clinton said Thompson had originally planned to leave his car in the centre of Crook, but made the “foolish” decision to drive.

He said he was only going to be travelling about one mile.

As well as the ban and unpaid work, which must be completed within the next 12 months, magistrates also ordered Thompson to pay £85 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.