A DISQUALIFIED driver who put the lives of his children at risk while drunk at the wheel has been allowed to walk free in the hope he will become a better father.

Dean Todd was nearly twice over the limit when he flagged down a police patrol car because he was worried someone was following him.

In the car were his partner, his five-week-old baby and a child aged two.

The decision by magistrates in Peterlee, County Durham, to hand down a suspended prison sentence to Todd was last night described as “ironic”

by motoring organisation the AA.

The court had heard that 30- year-old Todd, previously of Horden, but now of Wolsey Road, Spennymoor, County Durham, had been in the dock on three previous occasions for similar offences.

At the time of his latest offence he was the subject of a four-year driving ban imposed in January 2008.

Jonathan Woods, prosecuting, said police smelled alcohol on Todd’s breath when he stopped them in St Aidan’s Way, Peterlee, on June 30.

A breath test showed he had 99 micrograms of alcohol in 100ml of breath. The legal limit is 35 micrograms.

Further investigation revealed the Citroen AX Todd was driving had stolen number plates and that he had earlier filled it up with £30 of petrol and left without paying.

Neil Bennett, mitigating, said Todd had come to realise he had to deal with his alcohol problem.

“When he has had too much to drink common sense flies out of the window,” he said, adding that Todd had had an argument with his brother on the day in question.

“Having had something to drink he drove from Spennymoor to Peterlee with his children in the car.”

Mr Bennett said a jail sentence would do no good and, if sent down, there would be nothing for him when he was released.

He asked magistrates to give Todd “one last chance” so he could “remain part of the family” and keep the job he had recently landed.

Bench chairman Gary Walker agreed to the request, but in doing so asked Todd: “If you were involved in an accident – a nasty accident – and your children were both killed, how would you cope?

“Next time you pick up a bottle of alcohol and think what the consequences will be, hopefully you will get such a shock you’ll think again.”

The AA, which campaigns against drink-driving, believes that “the key to a further reduction in the level of death and injury lies in tackling persistent and high-alcohol- level drink drivers”.

Referring to Todd’s case, an AA spokesman told The Northern Echo: “There is an irony about it. This bloke was prepared to put the lives of his children at risk by driving while over the limit, yet the magistrates have seen fit to try to keep the family together, which in the long-term would probably be the better thing to do.”

“Repeat offenders are one of the problem areas (of drinkdriving),”

he added.

“You have a minority of drivers who, possibly due to their age, have got it into their minds that drinking substantial amounts of alcohol and driving is something that they have always done and can get away with.”

Todd, who pleaded guilty to drink driving, driving while disqualified, driving without insurance, failing to pay for petrol and the theft of number plates, was sentenced to 12 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months.

He was also told to undergo alcohol treatment and must serve a community order.

Todd was also made the subject of a three-month curfew between 9pm and 6.30am, banned from driving for three years and ordered to pay compensation and costs totalling £128.