A JUDGE has brandished a farmer who was three times the drink drive limit when he was followed home by a concerned member of the public as "the biggest prize idiot" he has seen this year.

Durham Crown Court heard the car driven by Thomas Stebbings, from Esh Winning, County Durham, was in such poor condition that sparks were flying from one of the wheels, because the tyre had completely gone, when he arrived home in the early hours of May 19.

The 20-year-old farmer, who admitted dangerous driving, was banned from the roads but avoided a prison sentence after Judge Jonathan Carroll said he was convinced the event was a "one-off".

He told the defendant: "You take the prize for the biggest idiot that's appeared before me this year.

"This was monumentally stupid, not just risking your own life because you were three times over the limit, but risking the life of any other road user."

The court heard Stebbings, of Castle View, had driven more than 13 miles, from Thinford to Esh Winning, while almost three times the alcohol limit.

At Neville's Cross, in Durham, he was spotted by a concerned member of the public who followed him home and called the police.

The court heard his car was in a "shocking state", and was missing a tyre and bumper by the time Stebbings, who told police he had crashed into a fence, arrived home.

When police tested his breath, it had 98 microgrammes per 100 millilitres, above the limit of 35.

Amrit Jandoo, mitigating, told the court that Stebbings had received distressing information on the day of the incident and added that losing his licence would cause him problems because of the nature of his work.

Banning him from the roads for 24 months, Judge Carroll said: "We live in an age where everyone knows if you drink and drive you lose your licence and you risk custody.

"Our grandparents took it for granted. The world has changed. You don't drink and drive."

He added: "I accept this was completely out of character, I can see the fear in you at the moment and I accept you are genuinely remorseful.

"I suspect this is a one-off in your life. Ordinarily, a dangerous driver would go to prison.

"I'm going to go out on a limb for you because I'm persuaded this is a one off in your life."

Stebbings, who admitted two charges of dangerous driving and driving while over the alcohol limit, was handed a 24-month community order and will have to do 230 hours of unpaid work.

He also has a three-month curfew, preventing him from leaving his home between 9pm and 6am.

He was also told to pay a £250 contributions towards the cost of the case.

PC Martain Anderson, who led the investigation, said: “This was a shocking incident and idiotic of the driver to even attempt to get behind the wheel when he was nearly three times over the drink drive limit.

“Luckily no one was injured but it really does hammer home the dangers of drink driving. There is no excuse for drink driving and those who are caught will always face the consequences.”