AN outspoken judge got it wrong when she jailed a teenager for lying about a drink-drive crash in a case she described as “farcical”.

District Judge Christine Harrison imposed a 12-week sentence on Alicia Jones last month without seeking a probation report on the former call centre worker.

The 19-year-old had arrived at HMP Low Newton in Durham before she got news that her lawyer had lodged an appeal and she had been given bail in the meantime.

She had got no further than the booking-in suite but was terrified that she would be housed with two inmates she gave evidence against.

The appeal has now been heard at Teesside Crown Court, and the prison term was changed to a community order with unpaid work, while costs and the length of a driving ban were also cut.

Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, QC, who was sitting with two magistrates, said: “In our judgement, the learned judge erred in going to sentence without a report.”

Defence lawyer Andrew Teate argued that the original sentence was too harsh and outside the guidelines, a probation report should have been sought and that Jones was punished for not pleading guilty.

During the original trial at Teesside Magistrates’ Court, the teenager claimed she had not been driving when her Vauxhall Adam crashed .

Jones and colleagues – including Holly Bingham – had been out in Peterlee, County Durham, after work last October, and ended up at a nightclub.

Bingham, 23, told the court she had spent £250 on double vodkas, sambucas and Jägermeister, and had little memory of the night, saying: "I was in a state. I would not remember if I had been sitting next to Brad Pitt."

Jones was almost three times the legal alcohol limit when she was breathalysed after police turned up at the crash scene just yards from the Vibe nightclub they had been in.

She said someone called 'Katie' had been driving, but failed to give her surname, and did not speak in her defence at her trial, and was found guilty in the face of "absolutely overwhelming evidence".

District Judge Harrison said: "Anyone hearing this farcical trial, will quite frankly find the evidence is completely overwhelming.”

Mr Teate said at the appeal that a probation report would have revealed “an important feature” as Jones was traumatised about the prospect of being in the same jail as two killers she had given evidence against.

He added: “She was so terrified that she had not told me about it, and it only came out on her way to custody.

“She got to the prison on the prison transport, was about to be booked in when she was told bail had been granted in her case and she would be released.

“She made it into the booking-in suite, but not into the prison itself, nonetheless a terrifying experience for a young woman with mental health difficulties and a self-harm risk.

“It’s quite conceivable we could have been dealing with this at a different court had she gone to custody and the bail application not been successful. It is worrying, troubling.

“It was wrong in all the circumstances not to offer a drink-driver rehabilitation course to a first-time offender of 19 years of age. It was not offered because the learned judge said the defendant had not shown any remorse.”

Judge Bourne-Arton imposed an 18-month community order with 140 hours’ unpaid work and 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days, and cut the roads ban from 30 months to 24 months, and costs from £1,080 to £620.

He said: “It is quite clear this is a serious case bearing in mind the extent of intoxication, further aggravated by the fact there were passengers on board and the accident.

“She is not to be punished for having a trial, but it does her no credit at all. She would have received substantial credit had she pleaded guilty and shown a degree of remorse.

“This is a case where we are all quite clear in our findings, it would be within the guidelines from a medium-level community order to a high-level community order.

“We are, all three, clearly of the view that this is not a case which passes the custody threshold, not even in respect of imposing such a sentence and suspending it.”

He added: “Had a pre-sentence report been placed before the learned district judge, she may well have been assisted by the contents thereof. It sets out the background of the appellant.

“The learned district judge would have been put on notice of a possible consequence of incarceration.

“We do not go into details of it, but she gave evidence in a very serious trial, which in itself would have been an ordeal and a traumatic ordeal, bearing in mind her age and the nature of that particular offence.”

Jones, of Harvester Close, Hartlepool, had a breath-alcohol reading of 95 micrograms in 100 millilitres. The limit is 35 micrograms.

Bingham, of Lime Crescent, Hartlepool, admitted contempt of court after initially refusing to given evidence against her friend, and was fined £500.