Judge overturns drink-driver's ban as woman was 'taking stabbed brother to Queen Alexandra Hospital'

A drink-driver who was stopped by police while rushing her stabbed brother to hospital has won an appeal over a ban after saying she thought ‘he was going to die’.

Tuesday, 10th December 2019, 3:10 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 7:12 pm

Portsmouth Crown Court heard Sarah Searle, 45, had drunk ‘three or four gin and tonics’ at a party when her partner Simon Richardson stabbed her disabled brother Andrew West.

In October Searle was fined £184 with a £30 victim surcharge and £85 prosecution costs and given a 12-month ban for drink-driving. She had been stopped by police in Portsmouth on her way to Queen Alexandra Hospital.

Searle had 164 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of urine. The limit is 107.

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Sarah Searle won her drink-driving appeal at Portsmouth Crown Court.

But now well-spoken Searle and her brother have both convinced a judge and two magistrates that she had a genuine emergency and should not have a driving ban.

Searle was pulled over by police who were forced to drive in front of her and brake to force her to stop in the early hours of April 20 in Western Road, off Portsbridge Roundabout in Portsmouth.

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Police said Searle was ‘unsteady on her feet’ and officers saw her brother’s T-shirt was soaked in blood as he was sitting in the front passenger seat.

Officers found an axe by the driver’s seat but Searle said that had been left after gathering wood for a fire.

As police dealt with the situation Mr Richardson appeared dressed in ‘sports clothes’ at Portsbridge Roundabout - some eight miles from the party at Cowdown Farm, Compton, just west of Clanfield.

Mr West, who suffers from a brain injury from an earlier incident, told the court he was ‘stabbed in the back’ with a Stanley knife and showed the judge a cut to his shoulder. His daughter visited him and said ‘it was like a horror show’.

Giving evidence, Ms Searle said family were enjoying a barbecue party at her home but she was going in and out of her bedroom tending to her sick dog.

But she said she heard screams and found her brother ‘covered in blood’.

She said: ‘I remember being in the bedroom lying on the bed with the dog and I heard screaming.’

She added: ‘As I entered the front room I remember looking down at my brother, who had shorts on, he had blood all over his leg and as I looked up to the top part of his body, his top part was covered in blood as well.’

Detailing party-goers’ reactions she added: ‘They were screaming at me saying he had been stabbed by Simon Richardson. At that time he was my partner.

‘I would like to add that getting my brother in the car, I did want to get him out the party because he did still have the knife. I wanted to get him away from the party.’

Asked who had the knife, she added: ‘I thought if I didn’t get my brother into that car, I thought he was going to die.’

Searle, now of Scant Road East, Hambrook in West Sussex, has been a carer for Mr West for 14 years, and he suffered a brain injury in 2009 in a ‘horrific accident’ when he was beaten up.

The former Portsmouth woman said she feared an ambulance would not reach her remote home in time, and that Google maps did not direct people to her exact location.

‘I didn’t have time, I had to save my brother’s life. I knew that was the best course at the time,’ she said and added no other drivers could take him.

When pulled over police reported that Searle accused her brother of stabbing her. But asked about this she said: ‘No. I was still very panicked. I was probably in shock. I remember screaming “he’s been stabbed, he’s been stabbed”.

‘I felt they were wasting time, asking me questions when I just needed my brother dealt with. I definitely did not say I was stabbed.

‘I would stress they could see the amount of blood that was in the car. They could see the amount of blood on him.’

Richardson was arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and drug possession, the appeal hearing was told.

A Sussex police spokeswoman told The News that there was an investigation into the stabbing but added: ‘Due to lack of support from the victim and witnesses the case was filed.’

She added: ‘The matter has been passed back to the investigating officer.’

Judge William Ashworth and magistrates found ‘special reasons’ not to impose a ban. The judge said the case met the emergency test ‘that a sober friend in the circumstances that you found yourself would have advised you to drive’.

Her punishment still stands but the 12-month ban has been removed and replaced with six points on her licence.