Drugged-up driver smashed into wall

Burnley Magistrates' Court.

Burnley Magistrates' Court.

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A drugged-up driver who hit another car and then smashed into a wall had cocaine and five other substances in his system, a court heard.

Nigel Clement Clarke (56) was found sitting in the driver's seat of his Citroen C3, which had front end damage, with the engine running. He had glazed eyes, struggled to hold a conversation and forgot what he was saying. The defendant was asked to stand up, but staggered about and couldn't keep his balance. Clarke was arrested and failed an impairment test at the police station, Burnley magistrates were told.

The bench heard Clarke's home and vehicle were searched and police found a number of bags of cocaine, which he said he had bought for £350 a week before, for his own use. He told officers he had used cocaine three times.

Clarke, the sole carer for his elderly father, claimed he hadn't liked the fact he felt he was becoming hooked on prescription drugs for pain and depression, researched cocaine, believed it would help him come off them and "decided to give it a go".

The defendant, of Malkin Close, Blacko, admitted driving while unfit through drugs on Red Lane, Nelson, possessing cocaine and failing to stop on Beverley Road, Blacko, on March 7th.

He was fined £200, with £85 costs and a £20 victim surcharge and was banned for two years.

Prosecutor Mr Eddie Harrison told the court a driver was travelling on Beverley Road, towards Gisburn at about 3pm. Mr Harrison continued: "He saw the defendant's vehicle coming towards him. He described it as being on the wrong side of the road. He recognised the defendant. He said he appeared to have a blank look about him."

The prosecutor said the witness thought he was going to be hit, stopped and Clarke swerved, caught his wing mirror and damaged his wheel arch, but carried on. Some time later a police officer attended a crash on Red Lane, where a vehicle had collided with a wall. The defendant was taken to the police station and failed the impairment test, where he would have been asked to walk in a straight line and touch his nose.

A blood test showed he had six drugs in his system, including cocaine. One was a pain killer and two were anti-depressants, all of which could cause drowsiness and impair his ability to drive. The prosecutor added: "The defendant put down his condition to prescription drugs. He couldn't recall colliding with the other vehicle."

John Rusius (defending) said Clarke, who was "effectively of good character," and who had retired from work after being made redundant, had been having problems. Marriage difficulties led to a separation. The solicitor continued: "He had suffered a near-death experience when he had been diagnosed with meningitis, which was not helped by the fact he had been attacked by a psychiatric patient while in hospital."

Mr Rusius went on: "Some years ago, he suffered a major back problem. That led to him being prescribed a number of painkillers. When that got worse, that led to severe depression, with more prescribed drugs. His father became particularly infirm, he was the sole carer and would often have to stay overnight, sleeping on the floor.

"Life was not great for Mr Clarke at this particular time. He did not like the fact he felt he was becoming somewhat addicted to these prescription drugs. He was also suffering with sleep deprivation. He was told and found out on the internet taking cocaine could help him to come off the prescription drugs and help him to stay awake during the day and he decided to give that a go."

Mr Rusius said the defendant had not had any cocaine on the day in question and he felt fine to drive, but " perhaps he wasn't." He was not aware he clipped the other car. Clarke gave a negative - zero- breath test at the police station.

The solicitor went on: "The officer says his eyes were glazed. The defendant says they would have been due to a lack of sleep, the medication. It's something that is normal for Mr Clarke with his current problems. Due to his back problems, he can't stand up, stand still or on one leg or anything like this, so perhaps it's not surprising he failed the impairment test."

Mr Rusius added: "Mr Clarke is very upset about the situation he finds himself in. His world was bad enough and now it all seems to have come tumbling down. He knows he shouldn't have tried cocaine. He thought it could make things better, but it made things worse."