A WOMAN almost five times the drink-drive limit was stopped on a busy dual carriageway at rush hour by public-spirited motorists who blocked her in and snatched her car keys.

Julie Christine Hancock, 47, had been seen heading towards Rawtenstall, on the M66, swerving across both lanes in her Ford Fiesta and almost hitting the central reservation at about 60mph.


Drivers had stayed behind her, one put his hazard lights on to warn there was a risk in the road and others did the same. Hancock nearly smashed into a lorry.

Burnley Magistrates Court heard the defendant continued to swerve across both lanes and onto the hard shoulder as she approached the town.

Prosecutor Andrew Robinson said when Hancock came to the end of the dual carriageway, a driver pulled in front of her and blocked her in, while another jumped out of his vehicle, opened her door and took her ignition keys.

Officers arrived at the scene at 5.45pm on Wednesday, August 20 and Hancock blew 162 micrograms on the roadside breath test. The legal limit is 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath.

At the police station, the lower of two samples showed 142 micrograms.

The court was told the defendant had a previous conviction for drink driving from November 2006, when her reading had been 93 micrograms and she had been banned for two years.

Hancock's son Danny Collins, 17, a talented rugby player, who had played for Burnley Rugby Union Football Club, tragically died in November 2012, after sniffing aerosols.

The carpentry student at Accrington and Rossendale College had lived in supported accommodation at Chapel Street, Brierfield, after several years in a children's home.

His birthday was August 4 and her solicitor told the hearing how Hancock found the time around that date particularly difficult.

The defendant claimed she didn't think she would be over the limit and that she didn't view herself as a criminal either.

But, District Judge Sam Gozee told her: "Miss Hancock, you are a criminal. This is the second time you have committed a drink driving offence in the past 10 years. On the last occasion, it was a high reading. On this occasion, it's off the scale, almost. Your driving on that night was dangerous, to say the least. It was so poor that members of the public intervened to stop you driving any further."

Hancock, of York Street, Heywood, admitted driving with excess alcohol on the A682, at Rawtenstall, but was spared immediate jail, after the district judge said one of the priorities of the court was to seek to rehabilitate her.

The defendant was given 12 weeks in prison, suspended for a year, with 12 months' supervision and must attend the Drink Impaired Drivers' Programme.

She was banned for four years and was ordered to take a retest at the end of it before she gets her licence back, for public safety.

District Judge Gozee, who said Hancock would be considered a high-risk driver who would be medically assessed by the DVLA, ordered her to pay an £80 victim surcharge and £85 costs.

John Rusius, defending, said Hancock had had issues with depression and drink, had been in a very difficult relationship and had been ‘tipped over the edge’ when her son died.

The solicitor continued: "Since this incident (the drink driving) she has taken steps to try and address her problems. She is looking at counselling.

“Today, hopefully, will be a watershed and she can put everything behind her and make a fresh start. She is trying to put everything right. She is full regret, full of remorse."

Mr Rusius added: "To say she is terrified at the prospect of custody is very much an understatement. Immediate custody would have a terrible and drastic effect upon this particular lady."

Passing sentence District Judge Gozee told Hancock: "The risk you posed on the M66 that evening, to the public, is really quite alarming.

“You could have killed yourself and you could have killed many other people. It's clear by the standard of your driving you had no control over that vehicle.

“You didn't think you were over the limit. I cannot accept that. You must have known you were in no fit state to drive. In essence, what you did is take your car as a weapon onto the road."

At the end of the hearing, the district judge told the prosecutor: "It would be nice if the Chief Constable wrote to the witnesses in this case to recognise what they did on that evening, to prevent something more tragic occurring."