A COACH driver who transported passengers after taking drugs has been spared immediate prison.
Carlisle Crown Court heard Stuart John Jones, 42, repeatedly “ignored” pleas by some of the 23 people travelling on his West Cumbria-bound bus to stop using his mobile phone as they returned from a birthday trip to Liverpool on November 11.
Further concerns about Jones’ erratic driving then prompted passengers to request he pull off the M6. But when the coach continued along the hard shoulder, near Burton in South Cumbria, one passenger pulled the handbrake to stop the vehicle. There was no collision, nor injury. But prosecutor Rachael Woods told the court: “Witnesses said they were scared and felt their lives had been placed in danger by this manner of driving.”
Jones seemed to be “in another world”, was seen to “stagger off” the vehicle and appeared “unsteady”. After police arrived, Jones produced plastic bags containing class A methylamphetamine, and class C diazepam and lorazepam. A blood test revealed illegal drug presence.
“The Crown’s case is that he was clearly under the influence,” said Ms Woods, “when he was driving in the manner in which he was seen to drive.”
Jones, who admitted dangerous driving and possessing the three drugs, had been a “well respected” bus driver for almost three decades. He’d immediately surrendered his public service vehicle licence after the incident, had lost his job and suffered a “great decline” in his physical and mental health.
However, Jones, of Ffynnongroyw, Holywell, North Wales, had since been offered non-driving employment and was receiving help for his issues.
Recorder Michael Murray suspended a 12-month prison term for two years, telling Jones he’d come “within a whisker” of being jailed. Jones must complete 200 hours’ unpaid work, rehabilitation and a three-year driving ban. “You took drugs, and because you had taken drugs it made you totally unfit to drive,” Recorder Michael Murray told him. “You could have killed somebody because of this irresponsibility.”