Irish Downton Abbey star Brendan Coyle got drunk on flight home from Thailand rehab centre, court hears
Brendan Coyle, who plays John Bates in Downton Abbey, banned from driving for more than four years after he was found to be nearly three times over the drink-drive limit while driving home after flying back from a spell at a Thailand rehabilitation clinic
As the actor who plays Lord Grantham’s stoical valet in Downton Abbey, Brendan Coyle has won plaudits for his portrayal of a man duty bound to carry out his instructions with dignity and decorum.
Yesterday he cut a more “contrite and sorrowful” figure, as he appeared before Norfolk magistrates yesterday, charged with drink driving.
Coyle, who plays John Bates in the award-winning ITV drama, was banned from driving for more than four years, after he was found to be nearly three times over the drink-drive limit while driving his BMW convertible.
He was alleged to have been drinking heavily on a flight back from Thailand, where he had spent a month receiving treatment at in a rehabilitation clinic.
The actor was pulled over by police, who had followed him on the A149 near King's Lynn, Norfolk, at 8.30pm on New Year's Day.
Prosecutor Sally Rose told the court he failed a roadside breath test and was taken to a Police Investigation Centre at King's Lynn, where a further test showed he had 98 mcg of alcohol in 100 ml of breath. The drink-drive limit is 35mcg.
The actor, who appeared in court under his real name David Coyle, was banned from driving for 50 months and ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work.
He was also given a 12-month community order with 15 days rehabilitation activity and told to pay £85 costs, plus a £60 victim surcharge.
King’s Lynne magistrates heard how Coyle, 52, of Heacham, Norfolk, suffers from a 'significant' alcohol problem.
Coyle, who was also convicted of drink-driving in 2011, had spent all of last December being treated for his alcohol problem at a rehabilitation unit in Thailand.
Steven Dyble , defending, told the hearing: "I can't say it was a success as the commission of the offence clearly shows it wasn't and failed. As was made plain to the arresting officer, the flight home was quite lively."
Mr Dyble told the bench that all the progress made in the previous four weeks had been lost on one flight, adding: "He stands before you a very contrite man who appreciates he has a problem and is doing his best to confront it and very sorry for burdening you with this appearance."
Mr Dyble – who described Coyle’s alcohol problem as “significant” - said that the actor was now seeking to put his life back on track and would be receiving treatment for his drinking problem at a clinic in England.
He added: "For a few weeks those who were privileged to know Mr Coyle were very concerned about his wellbeing in general."
Coyle, whose TV alter-ego Bates was wrongly imprisoned for murder until proven innocent thanks to the efforts of his wife Anna, was admitted himself to a Promis rehabilitation clinic on January 16 and remained there until February 3.
Senior therapist Steven Bember, from the Promis organisation, gave evidence on the aftercare programme which Coyle is undertaking. Mr Bember said it included a two to four day residential stay every four to six weeks.
The court that Coyle, who received a Laurence Olivier Award in 1999 for his performance in Conor McPherson's play The Weir - based entirely in a rural Irish pub of the same name - has also embarked on a 12 steps programme with Alcoholics Anonymous to tackle his drinking.
Probation officer Sharon Cooper told the court that Coyle described himself as a recovering alcoholic for the last four to five years and had felt he was “OK” to drive.
Mrs Cooper said: "There is a high level of remorse and a lot of relief that he did not hurt any other road users or himself."
She said he had cancelled work contracts to focus on remaining sober and has taken two months off.
There had been rumours about the actor’s heavy drinking in recent months. In January it was reported that he struggling to deliver his lines during filming of Downton Abbey, following a couple of heavy nights out.
The problems allegedly led to the filming of scenes being halted and Coyle being sent home to nurse a hangover.