Drink-drive case shame of Waveney District councillor

CALLS were made this week for a recently-elected councillor to stand down from Waveney District Council after he was convicted of drink-driving and assaulting a police officer.

Andrew Draper, 37, of Martin Close, Carlton Colville was fined more than �800 and banned for two years after he admitted driving while three times the legal limit and kicking a police inspector twice after his arrest.

After the hearing at Lowestoft Magistrates on Tuesday, it emerged that Draper – the Conservative councillor for Worlingham ward – had resigned his position on Waveney's cabinet.

But his decision to remain a councillor drew fierce criticism from Labour politicians and members of the public, amid claims that his behaviour was contrary to the conduct required of someone in a public role.

If Draper was to resign, it could have wider political implications at the council where the ruling Tory group have a tenuous grip on power following the May elections where the Conseratives and Labour each won 23 seats.

Colin Law, Conservative leader of the council, insisted that he was standing by Draper. He said: 'This is a private matter with the police and the courts. He's suitably contrite and humble and has apologised – he couldn't be more embarrassed about the situation... He'll now have to try twice as hard as everybody else for people to renew their faith in him. He is a good councillor and has been well received in his ward.

'I stand by him as a councillor and naturally, going forward, we will have to see how it pans out,' he added.

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But Julian Swainson, leader of the Labour group, said: 'I am sure councillor Draper's constituents will be disappointed to learn of his conviction at the magistrates' court and it is a matter for them to decide whether they can continue to have confidence in him to continue to serve as a Waveney district councillor – just as it is also for Colin Law, the Conservative group leader, to decide whether or not he is prepared to allow councillor Draper to continue to be a member of the Conservative group on Waveney District Council.'

Mr Swainson added: 'It obviously puts the Conservative group in a very difficult situation. We have been concerned since the council AGM that they have been acting as if they are still a majority administration but they are clearly not. This demonstrates the fragility of their position.'

At Tuesday's court hearing, magistrates heard Draper was arrested in Beccles Road on Friday, August 12.

Tess Mann, prosecuting, said Insp Stephen Bunn was on duty in a marked police vehicle when a white car drove past him at speed heading towards Beccles. It was 'accelerating hard' with 'increased emissions coming from the exhaust', she said, and the inspector noted it had accelerated up to '70mph in a 30mph limit.'

'The vehicle then turned right, arriving at the Tesco Express service station but instead of turning into the entrance it overshot the entrance and went across two kerbs with a grass verge in between, before parking,' she said.

Insp Bunn parked behind the white car, but when Draper got out he noted that his 'eyes were glazed' and he'd 'had a bit to drink,' so he decided to carry out a roadside breath-test, Mrs Mann added.

When Insp Bunn asked Mr Draper if he realised he had 'gone across the two kerbs', he acknowledged he did, and later said: 'Do you know Inspector Moir,' before soon adding: 'Do you know I am a councillor?'

PC Claire Davey arrived with a breath-test device, and Draper's reading was over the legal limit so he was arrested.

Mrs Mann told the court that Draper was then taken to Lowestoft police station by Insp Bunn and PC Davey. At this stage he was not handcuffed and sat in the back of the police car with PC Davey.

She said: 'The defendant said he needed a drink as his mouth was dry.' But when he was told he would have to wait, Draper said: 'I know my human rights' and 'became agitative and volatile', trying to make a call on his mobile.

PC Davey told Draper he could not use the phone, and the police vehicle was stopped. Insp Bunn then got out to try and put handcuffs on Draper but he resisted and 'curled his legs back' then 'kicked out with his feet,' firstly hitting Insp Bunn in the 'chest and then directly on the knee,' Mrs Mann told magistrates.

Pava spray was then used and this 'seemed to calm' Draper down and 'focussed his attention'. Later, at the police station, he gave a breathalyser reading of 107mcg of alcohol in 100ml of breath. The legal limit is 35.

'This was a significant reading,' Mrs Mann said. 'The inspector did not suffer any serious, lasting injuries but he was kicked twice following his arrest and the behaviour in the police car put both officers and the defendant at risk.'

James Hartley, for Draper, said his client was a Lowestoft Lifeguard – employed by Sentinel Trust and not a volunteer – and was based on the south beach during the airshow. 'He was in charge of eight to 10 lifeguards in the area between Claremont Pier and Cefas, and he had been having quite a stressful day,' Mr Hartley said.

At the end of the second day, after working 9am to 6pm, he had a drink with some colleagues, before cycling home.

On the night of the offence, about 11pm, Draper was hungry and with no food in his house,'Unfortunately, he went to Tesco express by car,' Mr Hartley said. 'He recalls he may have been speeding, but was not doing 70mph and he does not remember going over the kerb.'

Once he was spoken to by the inspector he was 'co-operative'. It was only when he was sprayed after resisting being handcuffed that he became agitated 'and at that stage he kicked out.'

He 'very much regrets his actions' and this was 'a very unfortunate lapse', Mr Hartley added.

Draper, who pleaded guilty to drink driving and assaulting a police officer, was disqualified from driving for 24 months and fined �665 – �400 for the driving offence and �265 for the assault.

He was also ordered to pay Insp Bunn �50 compensation and pay �100 in costs, making �815 in total.

When contacted this week, Draper said: 'No comment. Thank you.'

• What do you think? Write to Postbox, The Journal, 147, London Road North, Lowestoft NR32 1NB or email max.bennett@archant.co.uk including your name and address.

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