A MOTHER-OF-FIVE who provided an “off the scale” breath test when she was caught drink driving has narrowly avoided jail.

Rebecca Elizabeth Shaw was found to have 178microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath - more than five times the legal limit - when she was stopped by police in Newton Aycliffe on April 3.

Newton Aycliffe magistrates, who heard the 38-year-old’s case today, said it was the highest reading they had ever seen and did not have any sentencing guidelines for it.

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David Maddison, prosecuting, said Shaw was stopped in the town’s Stephenson Way while driving a Ford Transit van at about 2.35pm.

Hilary Payne, of the probation service, said the reading was “alarming”.

Shaw told Mrs Payne that she had consumed eight bottles of lager and some vodka the night before the incident and had “not been eating properly for some time”.

Mrs Payne said Shaw, of Castlereagh Close, Newton Aycliffe, had had a difficult birth with twins five years ago and had become depressed following the birth.

“She’s taken the foolish decision to stop taking her antidepressants and she went on to drink alcohol instead,” Mrs Payne said. “She would not discuss this with anybody and did not talk to any member of her family about it.”

Mrs Payne said matters had been made worse by the fact her partner had lost his job after injuring his shoulder.

The pair decided to set up their own catering business but it was “fraught with difficulties” and they got behind on their mortgage.

“She was still consuming alcohol but stopped eating and was not in a very good way but kept all this to herself and unfortunately this incident occurred,” she added.

Mrs Payne said being arrested had been a “terrifying” experience and a “wake up call”.

Andrew Clinton, mitigating, said his client, who had no previous convictions, was “extremely apologetic”.

Magistrate John Robinson sentenced Shaw to 16 weeks in prison but given the “exceptional circumstances” suspended it for 18 months.

He banned her from driving for three years and gave her an 18-month community order with ten rehabilitation activity requirement days and a six-month alcohol treatment programme.

She will also pay £85 in costs and a £115 victim surcharge.