Learner drink-driver ‘lost her head’ after death of friend

A born-again Christian who “lost her head” after hearing of the suicide of a young person involved in her church got into her car and drove while more than double the drink-drive limit.

Learner driver Rochelle Burns was not insured when she was pulled over by the police driving in Yeovil town centre and was arrested after failing a roadside breath test.

Several months earlier she was involved in a disturbance with another female and when searched by the police was found in possession of cannabis.

When Burns, 28, of South Street in Yeovil, appeared before Somerset Magistrates Court, they also heard she was in breach of a previous court order imposed earlier this year for assaulting two police officers and a public order offence.

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She pleaded guilty to drink-driving, driving without insurance or a licence on August 26 and being in possession of six cannabis flowering heads (class B).

She also admitted being in breach of a conditional discharge imposed on February 18 this year for two assaults on an emergency worker and using threatening behaviour.

Prosecutor Emma Lenanton said that officers were on duty in a marked police vehicle when they saw a VW Golf being driven on South Street with the number plate light not working.

They followed the car and when the defendant got out of the driver’s seat she revealed she had no insurance and only held a provisional licence.

“The officers could smell alcohol on her breath and noticed her eyes were glazed and her speech was slurred, and she then took a roadside breath test which she failed,” she said.

Burns was arrested and after taking a further breath test in custody produced a reading of 71mcg of alcohol in 100ml of breath, the legal limit being 35mcg of alcohol.

On March 14, the defendant was searched by police after they were called to an address in Yeovil following reports of a disturbance.

They found a small cling film wrap of cannabis and a tissue containing some heads of cannabis weighing a total of 2.6g.

Miss Lenanton told the court that Burns was also in breach of a conditional discharge imposed earlier this year for two assaults on an emergency worker and a public order offence.

She said: “During the incident the defendant was generally abusive and was shouting and swearing at the police who were dealing with another female.

“She punched one of the officers to the chest and pushed the second one to the chest area.”

Defending, Sam Morton said that Burns bought herself a vehicle so she could learn to drive and was heavily involved with the church after becoming a born-again Christian three years ago.

On the day in question she was involved with a baptism and later that day heard the news that a person involved had committed suicide.

“As a result she lost her head and drove her car a short distance down the road and then decided to drive home,” he said.

“It was then that the police stopped her because of the light not being on her number plate.”

Mr Morton also said that Burns used the cannabis to help calm her anxiety and insomnia after being prescribed medication during her teenage years to deal with a number of diagnosed mental health issues.

He added that she had since given up using any illegal drugs and spent much of her time working and volunteering with her local church. She survived on benefits as she was not yet fit to work due to mental health issues.

The magistrates banned Burns from driving for 20 months and fined her £120 for drink driving and fined her a further £80 for the cannabis offence and ordered the destruction of the drugs.

The conditional discharge was revoked and she was re-sentenced for the original offences of a £40 fine for each totalling £120 along with a £32 victim surcharge.

Somerset Live Bath