Monday 9 December 2019

Irish jockey Tom Queally claims he was sleep walking while drink driving and gets ban

Tom Queally riding Frankel win The Qipco Champions Stakes at Ascot racecourse in October 2012
Tom Queally riding Frankel win The Qipco Champions Stakes at Ascot racecourse in October 2012

Pat Hurst

Tom Queally was today banned from driving for 22 months after claiming he was sleep walking while drink driving.

Queally was more than twice over the limit after being found asleep behind the wheel of his BMW, claimed he had not been drinking, then "rolled" out of a police car and lay down on the ground after being arrested, Crewe Magistrates' Court heard.

But his lawyer Nick Freeman, known as "Mr Loophole" claimed the 30-year-old, most famous for being the regular jockey of Frankel, was "morally totally innocent" as he was "sleep driving" at the time and claimed the law needed to be changed.

Celebrity lawyer Mr Freeman claimed Queally was forced to admit the charge of drink driving because the law had not caught up with medical science in recognising sleep walking as a legal defence for drink driving.

Queally, from Dungarvan, Ireland, but now living at Oak Lodge, Newmarket, today admitted drink driving on March 16, earlier this year.

Kate Marchup, prosecuting, told the court around 5am on March 16 a man driving home from nightshift spotted Queally "either asleep or looking down at his mobile phone" with his car parked in the carriageway of Knutsford Road in Knutsford, Cheshire.

He was "concerned" drove back and saw another vehicle parked behind Queally's BMW and a young man asking the defendant if he had been drinking - then the defendant drove off, but his registration number was taken.

Queally's BMW was then spotted parked up on the forecourt of a Shell garage in the village of Chelford, nearly five miles away.

At 5.40am an officer arrived and found Queally asleep at the wheel with the car lights on and the engine running.

He gave a positive breath test and was arrested.

Queally gave a reading of 84 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35mg.

Mr Freeman, mitigating, said a number of "trigger events" prompted an episode of sleep walking that led Queally, a man of no previous convictions and "exemplary character", to get in the car.

He said Queally used to ride for Sir Henry Cecil, who died in June 2013. An ex-girlfriend had also committed suicide and he had suffered the break-up of a long-term relationship.

On the night of the incident he enjoyed an evening out in Hale, Cheshire with his friend and manager Nicholas Whittle and his "last recollection" was reading Hare and Hounds on a bed at Mr Whittle's house around 2am.

Mr Freeman told the court: "The thrust of my mitigation is he's completely unaware of what he's doing. He's sleep driving.

"The defendant's next recollection is actually being in the back of a police vehicle."

Mr Freeman said there was a history of sleep walking in Queally's family - and the defendant had sleep walked from the age of five.

But he had never "sleep driven" before, which happened due to these "trigger events".

Mr Freeman said the law did not allow him to argue "special reasons", but if it did, the defendant would have pleaded not guilty on the basis of sleep walking while drink driving.

He said: "I don't think the law has kept up with scientific developments, because it seems simply unfair for a man of this quality now to have a criminal conviction for something which in my view, he's morally totally innocent.

"It would seem to fly in the face of natural justice."

Dr Irshad Ebrahim, a consultant psychiatrist called by the defence to give evidence, told the court he had twice examined the defendant.

Dr Ebrahim said it was possible Queally was unaware of his actions because of his sleep walking.

"It is an automatic state, like a trance state, where there's no control of it," he said.

After listening to the defence mitigation, District Judge Bridget Knight said previous legal authorities had ruled sleep walking was not a defence for drink driving.

She added: "The law is quite clear, you would be deemed to be driving in such circumstances even if affected by some sleep disorder."

Judge Knight disqualified Queally for 22 months, fined him £1,350, with a victim surcharge of £120 and ordered he pay the prosecution costs of £3,500.

Queally told the court he will pay within seven days.

Outside court Mr Freeman said: "Because drink driving is a crime that doesn't require any specific intent, he can't argue this as a defence or a special reason.

"The law needs to be changed to reflect this unique set of circumstances."

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