Clare Coughlan, 37, of Purley, Surrey, in the UK, was a passenger in a blue Peugeot being driven by her boyfriend after they had been out for a drink in London’s trendy Islington. Police pulled over the car in Murray Street, at 11.30pm on September 2 last year, breathalysed the boyfriend, who was not named in court, and arrested him for being over the drink drive limit.
Ms Coughlan told three officers she would drive the car and follow them to nearby Islington police station where they were taking her boyfriend in a van but they said they were unsure because she seemed confused. Ms Coughlan told them she was just tired, so they handed her the car keys.
But, after she had turned on the ignition, the police changed their minds, told her to switch off and get out of the car and take a breath test which she failed. Highbury Corner magistrates disqualified Ms Coughlan for six months and ordered her to pay £100 costs.
But they said it was a lenient sentence because of the circumstances. William Gatward, defending, was highly critical of the police. He said: “In other jurisdictions this would have been called officially-induced error. This is a really unusual case because three police officers stood by and handed my client the car keys. It is a really unfortunate conviction for her because she did not drive the car.”
After the brief hearing, Ms Coughlan, an attractive flame-haired freelance chef, was in tears. She told The-Latest: “I’m very upset. I don’t know why the police let me have the car keys if they thought I was drunk and then arrested me when I turned on the ignition. It is really unfair.”