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Wrong way motorway drunk driver is jailed for 9 months

A woman who drove 23 miles the wrong way along a motorway after doing a U-turn in the carriageway while twice the drink-drive limit was jailed for nine months today.

Deborah Hunt, 43, drove down the fast lane of the M5 in Britain, dodging oncoming vehicles before coming to a halt on the hard shoulder.

Mother-of-three Hunt, of Langport, Somerset, was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court after admitting dangerous driving, driving with excess alcohol and driving without insurance.

She wept in the dock as Judge Mark Horton said he would be failing in his public duty if he did not jail her immediately for so serious an offence.

Hunt admitted all the charges at a hearing last month.

The court heard today that she must have been driving for at least 20 minutes on the wrong carriageway before she stopped the car, which she wrongly believed she was insured to drive under the policy she had for her own Mercedes.

When Avon and Somerset Police officers approached the car she had done another U-turn and the car was stationary facing south on the hard shoulder. Hunt was turning the ignition over, but it was not starting the engine.

Prosecution barrister John Dyer told the judge that officers believe it had run out of petrol, which was why she had stopped, something disputed by Hunt and her partner. When they approached her, Hunt had a "glazed look, with unfocused eyes", and smelt strongly of alcohol.

When tested she gave a breath test that showed she had 83mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath. The legal limit is 35mg.

At least 10 motorists called 999 to report her dangerous driving, but her defence barrister Nigel Askham said today that her recollection of events was "hazy".

"She had a call from her partner and responded to it," he said.

"She cannot say why it is that she was driving up the wrong side of the motorway. It was a ridiculous piece of driving which, in the cold light of day, she has to acknowledge."

He told the court Hunt, who had points on her licence for two previous speeding offences, had been out of work since being made redundant in May last year. He said she had a long history of alcohol abuse and is also going through acrimonious court proceedings with her former partner over custody of their three children, aged 15, nine and three.

Mr Askham argued that her experience with the legal system had been a "salutary lesson" and that she should be spared jail.

But Judge Horton jailed her for seven months for dangerous driving and a further two for drink-driving, to be served consecutively. She was also banned from driving for 15 months.

The judge told her that he intended, under new legislation, to recommend that she be classified as having a "drink-induced disability" that would mean she would have to prove she was clean before being allowed back on the road.