Drink driver tells police her dog was driving after ending up on footpath close to playground

Melissa Jenkins Johanson drunkenly reversed out of a cafe car park on the Parrog in Fishguard. Credit: Google Maps

A drunk woman who drove down a footpath whilst thinking it was a road told police that her dog was driving, a court has heard.

Melissa Jenkins Johanson, 47, had attempted to reverse out of the car park at Ocean Café Bar and Restaurant, in Fishguard, four times before a man noticed her drunken state and phoned the police.

On a fifth attempt, she did manage to reverse out of the car park at midday on February 15, and then began driving down the footpath before colliding with a bus stop just metres from a children’s play area, Swansea Crown Court has heard.

Hannah George, prosecuting, told the court how members of staff in the café ran outside to alert families that Johanson was driving on the footpath.

“She eventually went onto the main road where she paused for several minutes,” Ms George told the court. “She then went to the Seaview Hotel and then went on to Tesco, where she was caught on CCTV footage."

The judge said Johanson's actions "beggared belief". Credit: Media Wales

“She was doing some shopping?” sitting Judge Huw Rees asked.

“Yes,” Ms George replied.

Judge Rees said Johanson’s actions “beggared belief”.

When two officers from Dyfed Powys Police visited Johanson at her home, she blamed the whole thing on her pet dog Lily.

“The officers arrived at her address and found the car substantially damaged,” Ms George continued.

"The officers then entered the property and were immediately hit with the smell of alcohol. She asked the police if they had any proof for her arrest and then said her friend had driven the car and also that her dog Lily drove the vehicle.”

Johanson was then asked to give a sample of breath but she refused.

She was then taken into custody and asked again to provide a sample, to which she refused again. Officers asked her instead if they could take a sample of her blood, to which she also refused.

“Presumably because she was so intoxicated,” Judge Rees responded.

Eyewitnesses said Johanson had no thought for anyone around her.

The defendant had already been banned from driving at the time after being convicted of drink driving in November last year.

Dean Pulling, for Johanson, said his client had held down a good job in her career in food manufacturing for 20 years. He also said she had a long history of mental health difficulties, and has been diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder.

Mr Pulling also said Johanson was driving at a relatively slow speed and did not injure anyone.

“She did not seem to be driving erratically,” he told the court, “and the incident did not involve any form of police pursuit”.

'Babbling incoherence'

Turning to the defendant, Judge Rees said: “For some considerable period in recent years drink has been your nemesis. On November last year you were convicted of driving a vehicle while under the influence of excess alcohol.

"You were given an opportunity under the auspices of a 12-month community order to which your response has been slow in part.

“On February 15 this year you committed these offences. You were disqualified from driving only three months before. You had consumed alcohol and for that reason you failed to provide a specimen.

“When police arrived at your address there was an all-consuming smell of alcohol. In your babbling incoherence you showed how intoxicated you were. You were driving in this state in and around Ocean View car park. It is an area of open land which includes a children’s play area, and you were there at midday.

“You made four attempts to reverse out of the car park before then mounting the footpath - clearly not for driving on. You must have thought it was the road out.

“Your attitude towards the offending causes additional concern. You failed to attend the interview with the probation officer, and you had an unsatisfactory response initially to your community order. Your attitude towards Dyfed Alcohol and Drug Programme has been sporadic engagement.

“Whatever your assessment of this is, let me be very clear - your offending is very serious. Your selfish decision to drink alcohol in large measure and your ignorance to the consequences meant someone, perhaps a child, could have been seriously injured, maimed, or even killed.”

Taking into account Johanson’s “background of stability and education” as well as her “good employment history” and eventual cooperation with a community order, Judge Rees sentenced her to 12 months, suspended for 18 months.

She must also complete a 15-day rehabilitation course, 150 hours of unpaid work and ensure she visits Swansea Crown each month before a judge to monitor her progress with regard to alcohol consumption.

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