A doctor who twice crashed her car while drunk at the wheel and had half a bottle of vodka before going to the gym has claimed the stress of her training drove her to booze.
When Dr Lauren Fowler, 25, crashed her Ford Ka in an area busy with pedestrians, police found her ‘incoherent’ with drink and an empty bottle of wine in the footwell.
She had bought the wine from an off-licence and knocked it back at the wheel after drinking with friends over lunch in Manchester.
Then, two months later while she was on bail, Fowler crashed her vehicle in the car park of the Stanneylands hotel in Wilmslow, Cheshire. She had drunk half-a-bottle of vodka before going to the gym.
Now Fowler has been spared jail at Stockport Magistrates Court. The court heard she began drinking as a student at Imperial College London to ‘cope with the stress’ of her medical course.
The first incident happened in October, a couple of months after she graduated.
“Police attended a minor road traffic collision and met the defendant who was clearly intoxicated”, prosecutor Joseph O’Connor said. “She was swearing and slurring her words and they could smell intoxicants on her breath.
“When they tried to speak to her they had trouble understanding what she was saying, she was incoherent and the officers assumed she was drunk. As she was arrested she admitted that she had drunk two bottles of wine and was taken to the police station. She was described as acting very emotionally and she failed to provide a specimen of breath because she was so upset.”
Fowler was bailed but was stopped again less than two months later, after she drank half a bottle of vodka then drove around the hotel car park near her family’s home in Styal, Cheshire.
Tests showed she was over three times the drink drive limit.
“She collided with another car whilst trying to leave the car park of the Stanneylands Hotel”, Mr O’Connor added. “When the police arrived they tried to speak to her, but they noticed a smell of intoxicants on her breath and she was slurring her words.
“She was taken to the police station and gave two samples of breath. In interview she made admissions and told them she had drunk half a bottle of vodka before deciding to go to the gym.”
Fowler - a first year doctor - broke down and wept in court as he was told her offending ‘crossed the custody threshold’, but her jail term was suspended after magistrates heard how she had since managed to quit drinking.
Defending, Helen Turner, said she now faces a disciplinary investigation by the General Medical Council.
“She has an addictive behaviour, she admits this. She has a very stressful lifestyle”, the lawyer added.
“It is insurmountable the amount of work she does. She works 48 hours during the week, and she works overtime, and also volunteers at the weekend. You can’t deny the dedication she has for her career. She has already made steps to making sure this never happens again. She has given up alcohol completely. She has removed all temptation to ever get behind the wheel by selling her car.
“She has been seeing an addiction counsellor every week. She has shown an incredible amount of remorse for her actions. Her character references indicate that this isn’t the kind of thing you would expect from her.
“She reported herself to the GMC. She has been completely transparent with her employer and the GMC and she knows this will massively impact her career. She has made a hill for herself to climb and I can only ask that you don’t make this a mountain, as she has already punished herself enough.”
Fowler admitted drink driving and failing to provide a breath specimen. She was sentenced to eight weeks jail suspended for a year, ordered to complete 40 hours unpaid work banned from driving for three years and ordered to pay £200 court costs.
JP Martin Drake told her: “We have considered all the facts of this case and there are aggravating features; the first offence was committed during the day when there were pedestrians around and the second offence was committed on bail and it was a very high reading. This does cross the custody threshold but the sentence will be suspended and this mean you will not be going to prison today.
“However, if you commit any offence during the next 12 months, another judge has the right to activate that sentence and can send you to custody.”