A DRUNKEN HGV driver who wiped out a bus stop, forcing a woman to flee for her life has escaped an immediate prison sentence.

Blackburn magistrates told Andrew George Grove his early guilty plea had persuaded them to suspend a prison sentence.

But the chairman said they considered the offences to be ‘extremely serious’. “There could have been very, very tragic consequences to your actions,” said the chairman.

Grove, 59, of Rockliffe Avenue, Bacup, pleaded guilty to driving with excess alcohol and failing to stop after an accident. He was sentenced to six months in prison suspended for two years, disqualified for 36 months, made subject to community supervision for 12 months with a condition he attends the drink-impaired driving programme and ordered to pay £165 costs.

Catherine Allan, prosecuting, said Grove gave a reading of 122 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, against the legal limit of 35.

She said at about 6.30pm on March 17 Grove had attempted a U-turn on Blackburn Road, Rishton. An eye witness, also an HGV licence holder, described the manoeuvre as “impossible.”

“He shouted at the defendant to stop but he just looked at him, shrugged his shoulders and carried on,” said Miss Allan. “The witness continued shouting and screaming because he could see there was a young woman in the bus stop which the lorry was heading towards. She had to jump from under the falling bus stop.”

Miss Allan said Grove drove away as if nothing had happened and the witness followed in his car. He got in front of the lorry and forced it to stop. He told Grove he had just demolished the bus stop and there was a young girl in it.

“His reply was he had to get back to the depot and he drove off,” said Miss Allan. “The witness again drove in front of him and forced him to stop and this time he removed the keys.”

Miss Allan said Grove told police he had driven from Bacup and had been drinking before he set off.

“Fortunately the female was not hurt but the bus stop was demolished,” said Miss Allan.

Aftab Bakhat, defending, said in recent years Grove had started to drink more and more. “It is an escape mechanism, his crutch,” said Mrs Bakhat. “We can only be thankful nobody was hurt, although that is by luck rather than by design,”