‘Gross error in judgement’: drink-driver apologises after crash into church

The damaged Church of St Anthony in ottery. Ref sho 47 19TI 4735. Picture: Terry Ife

The damaged Church of St Anthony in ottery. Ref sho 47 19TI 4735. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

A 26-year-old driver who caused ‘considerable damage’ when his car crashed into the Roman Catholic Church in Ottery has been disqualified for 18 months.

The damaged Church of St Anthony in ottery. Ref sho 47 19TI 4735. Picture: Terry Ife

The damaged Church of St Anthony in ottery. Ref sho 47 19TI 4735. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Haydn Banfield, of The Signals, Feniton, pleaded guilty to driving while over the limit at Exeter Magistrates Court on Tuesday (November 26).

The 26-year-old was driving down Mill Street, at around 12.30am on Sunday, November 17, in a white BMW when he collided with a brick wall of St Anthony's Roman Catholic Church.

The self-employed plumber had been playing football with friends and then went to the pub.

After crashing his car, he left the scene but returned shortly afterwards and spoke to police.


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He was breathalysed at the scene before taken to hospital. A second breath test recorded a reading of 70 micrograms of alcohol in 100milliletres of breath - twice the drink drive limit.

Philip Jewell, prosecuting, said 'considerable damage' was caused to the church.

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The court heard that Banfield had met with Father Frank from the church to apologise in person and written a letter.

Katharine Todd, defending, said: "It was a gross error in judgement. He is a relatively young man. He had been playing football with his friends and gone for a drink.

"He cannot remember getting into the car.

"Mr Banfield feels terrible about what has happened and has written a letter to Father Frank."

Magistrates told the defendant he was banned from driving for 18 months and he was fined £440 by the court.

He was offered a driving awareness course to reduce his sentence.

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