A dad-of-four has been banned from the roads after he was convicted of drug-driving and using a phone at the wheel.
Ben Bicknell, 30, said his job as a roofer and builder was over after he was sentenced at Bath Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, January 2.
He was also made to pay more than £900 in fines and prosecution costs.
The court heard Bicknell had smoked cannabis at 5am before leaving his home in Bower Walk, near Victoria Park in Bristol, to work for his brother.
His mum was looking after his two twins who were ill and he took a phone call from her as he drove his Mercedes Sprinter along the A37 Pensford Hill rather than stopping.
Prosecuting, Jessica Dobson said police officers on patrol in an unmarked car saw this and stopped him.
She said: “Their attention was drawn to him as he’s described being on the telephone with the phone in his right hand to his right ear.
“They stopped the van and described it as smelling of cannabis.
“He said he consumed a cigarette containing cannabis earlier that morning.”
Bicknell was breathalysed and found to have 3.3 microgrammes of the drug per litre of blood (the limit is 2mcg).
A small cannabis grinder was also found in his van, Ms Dobson said.
In an interview with police, Bicknell said the cannabis was for his personal use and that he knew it’s a Class B controlled drug, she told the court.
Ms Dobson said he had one previous conviction, for possession of a Class B drug in 2014.
He admitted three offences: driving a vehicle above the limit for a controlled drug, using a handheld phone while driving and possession of cannabis.
They all happened on September 19.
Defending, Lisa Rowley said her client was a “hard-working family man” who was self-employed as a roofer and builder and has four children.
She told the court: “He says he does smoke it now and again. He doesn’t drink.
“He had one at 5am that morning.
“His brother rang him to say he wanted help with his business.
“He left [home] at 7.30am.”
Ms Rowley said he received a call from his mother and because his twins were “very unwell”, he took it.
She said: “Normally it would come through [to his] hands-free, but on this occasion it didn’t.
“Because he saw it was his mum he answered, because he felt it was an emergency. He couldn’t stop and answer the phone.
“He’s been driving since aged 17.
“He will no longer be working after this.”
‘A very expensive smoke’
Sentencing, lead magistrate Angela Graham-Lee said: “We’re going to impose a fine for the drug-driving offence.
“But overall it’s going to be a very expensive smoke that you had. “
For the drug-driving charge, he was fined £400 and told to pay Crown Prosecution Service costs of £85 and a £40 victim surcharge.
Magistrates also levied fines of £265 for the possession of cannabis charge and £135 for using a mobile phone while driving – a total of £925.
He was banned from driving for 12 months.
Ms Graham-Lee said: “That means, with immediate effect, you can’t drive any vehicle on a public road.
“People get sent to prison for driving while disqualified so you need to take it seriously.”
At the end of the hearing, Bicknell said he was going on holiday in two weeks and that he would be unable to immediately pay the £925 he owed the court.
“No, I can’t pay anything now,” he said.
“I have lost my job because I have lost my licence.”
He agreed to a £10-a-week payment plan.
Drink and drug-driving crackdown
Drink-driving is considered by Avon and Somerset police to be one of the ‘fatal four’ driving offences for causing death on the roads.
The other three are speeding, not wearing a seatbelt and using a mobile phone at the wheel.
The force arrested 107 people for drink and drug driving during the Operation Tonic crackdown in December.
- a milk delivery driver at 5.20am
- a father with two children in the car
- a man driving to a school nativity play who was four times over the legal limit
- a known drink driver, who upon police contact, rammed a marked car before crashing into a wall and writing off his high-end car
- a driver weaving on the M5 who ignored officers’ requests to stop, which lead the police to operate a sting which prevented a pursuit.
All of these drivers faced very serious consequences, police said.
Andy Williams, head of road safety at Avon and Somerset police said: “We’ve seen some disgraceful circumstances involving intoxicated drivers which show a clear disregard for other road users and even passengers.
“I hope that with the support of the community and ongoing enforcement and education we will see less drink drivers on the road.
“We’ve received 292 calls and text reports from the public so far and I encourage anyone who has any information about someone who is driving whilst under the influence to inform us immediately so that we can take action.”
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “It is never acceptable to drink and drug drive.
“When driving under the influence of any substance and taking to the road in a vehicle, you put both yourself and others at risk and the consequences can be devastating.
“The police are committed to keeping the roads of Avon and Somerset safe for all who use them.
“I believe the majority of law-abiding people support the police in doing all we can to bring offenders to justice, keeping the roads safe not only this summer, but all year round.”
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