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Drink driver escaped girlfriend who attacked him with axe after UEA gig

PUBLISHED: 08:48 11 December 2018 | UPDATED: 15:55 11 December 2018

King's Lynn Magistrates' Court, The Court House, College Lane, King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt.

King's Lynn Magistrates' Court, The Court House, College Lane, King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt.

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A Swaffham man was caught drink driving after fleeing from his girlfriend who attacked him with an axe, a court heard.

William Edward Clarke’s partner reacted violently when the two had an argument over alleged infidelity by her, magistrates in King’s Lynn were told yesterday (Tuesday, December 11).

However, it was Clarke who ended up in court after he drove away from the concert at the UEA in Norwich to escape the argument and police were tipped off that he was drink-driving.

The 36-year-old was stopped in his LDV campervan on the A47 at Dereham on November 24 and failed a roadside breath test. A later evidential test showed he had 64 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, almost twice the legal limit of 35.

Clarke, of Station Street, pleaded guilty to driving with excess alcohol.

In mitigation, solicitor Tim Bartlam – who showed the bench his client’s alleged injuries and damage to the campervan caused in the attack – successfully argued that the circumstances should allow the magistrates to look outside their sentencing guidelines for the breathalyser reading and be lenient.

Mr Bartlam said: “He and his girlfriend went in a campervan to the UEA. They were going to watch The Levellers.

“They were going to enjoy the evening, enjoy that they could stay the night and enjoy a drink.

“Mr Clarke had had three or four pints but during the course of the evening he felt unwell and went back to the van and went to bed. On the return of his girlfriend, an argument started as he had recently found out that she had been unfaithful. Unfortunately that led to the girlfriend becoming out of control.

“She set about him with a small axe, used to chop wood for the fire [in the campervan]. She attacked him and she attacked the van. He was struck on the leg a number of times and, I understand, on the thigh.

Mr Bartlam said the woman set about Clarke’s van in “quite a frenzied way” with the axe, damaging the flue to the stove, smashing out the back window and attacking the bodywork.

He added: “Mr Clarke – in fear and not a little befuddled – got her out of the campervan. He was then set about outside it. She left the scene for a short time.”

Clarke then took the decision to leave in the campervan.

“That was a reaction someone might take understandably because of the circumstances,” said Mr Bartlam.

“Had it not been that he travelled some distance there might have been a special reason why you shouldn’t disqualify him but he had not got his thinking head on at the time and was driving home.”

Mr Bartlam said Clarke’s life as a self-employed painter and decorator would “change significantly” as a result of the inevitable driving ban.

Chair of the bench Meher Vanner told Clarke: “For these unusual circumstances we are going to come out of our guidelines and we are going to give you a 12-month disqualification.”

He was also fined £179 and ordered to pay £85 costs and £30 victim surcharge.

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