Drink-drive policeman escapes ban

Published Date:
16 November 2009
By Stef Hall, Crime Reporter

A police officer from Lancashire convicted of causing a hit-and-run crash while drunk had been caught over the limit nine months earlier - but the case was dropped.
Andrew Armstrong, 50, was seen asleep in his car with the engine running by a neighbour who called police in December.

He was breathalysed and charged with being in charge of a motor vehicle with alcohol above the limit, but the case was scrapped at court due to a lack of evidence.

But it has emerged police did not interview Armstrong or the witness and insisted it was normal practice.

Nine months later, Armstrong, a Lancashire Police officer for 23 years, fled a head-on crash before being found by a police dog in bed at his ex-wife's house.

He is facing jail for the second incident when he is sentenced on Tuesday.

Armstrong said: "They should have interviewed me but they didn't. Interviewing me would be the normal course of action. Even the Professional Standards Department didn't want to know. They never spoke to me."

His outraged neighbour, who said she saw Armstrong asleep with half empty bottle of vodka, said: "They had a witness – me – and a positive breath test. Nine months later he was involved in this crash and someone could have been seriously hurt.

"I don't think an ordinary member of the public would have got away with sitting behind the wheel of a car drunk with the engine running, on a public road.

"It annoys me that you are encouraged to report crime but then nothing gets done about it.

"I am so concerned I am going to write to Jack Straw."

The 53-year-old had been watching TV on December 29 when she saw Armstrong in a car outside his then home on Sulby Grove, Ribbleton, Preston.

She said: "I went upstairs at about 9.30pm. I noticed a cars with its lights on and engine running through the window, but couldn't tell if anyone was in it.

"Three hours later, about 12.30am, it was still there. It didn't feel right for a car to be parked with its lights on for so long, so I woke my husband and told him.

"He went outside to pretend to check his van and saw a man asleep with a bottle of booze in the car. His engine was still running. He thought it was the man who lived across the road, which he did, but we hadn't known then he was a police officer."

Armstrong, who was based at police headquarters in Hutton, was breathalysed, arrested and charged.

However, the case was dropped when it got to Burnley Magistrates Court on January 8. But on September 24 Armstrong failed to stop after a head-on accident in North Todd Lane, Lostock Hall, which left a woman with whiplash injuries and a written-off car.

As she climbed out of the passenger side of her car she saw Armstrong stagger away along a bridle path.

A police dog followed his scent to his ex-wife's house in Lyndale Grove, Lostock Hall, where she invited officers into the house. Armstrong was found in a bed in a ground-floor bedroom.

Armstrong, who worked at Leyland Police Station, then threatened a police sergeant who came to assist in his arrest and had to be handcuffed.

He was finally breathalysed almost two hours after the crash and was found to be more than three times over the legal drink drive limit.

Armstrong, 50, of Cardale, Hutton, near Preston, pleaded guilty at Blackburn Magistrates' Court to driving with excess alcohol, failing to stop after an accident and using threatening behaviour. He was suspended from duty and then resigned. He will not get his police pension.

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