A COURT was told the PSNI District Commander for Ards and North Down heard a radio transmission regarding a suspected unfit driver and when Superintendent Brian Kee, QPM, spotted the car he turned his vehicle and spoke to the motorist when she stopped at traffic lights.
Details emerged at Newtownards Magistrates Court where Cathy Brotherston (44), of Copelands Park, Bangor, had denied a charge of driving whilst unfit but was convicted.
She admitted charges relating to Pregabalin and Diazepam but denied driving whilst unfit at Newtownards Road, Bangor, during "rush hour" on November 20, 2020.
The court heard a member of the public suspected she was unfit to drive and called police.
A breath sample for alcohol was zero but a blood test showed the defendant had a level of Pregabalin registering 35 whilst the "therapeutic level" is 8.
District Judge Amanda Brady said that meant the defendant was "well above what you would expect of a daily dose of Pregabalin".
The judge said "no one was saying there was anything wrong with her driving but her level of Pregabalin was high".
The Superintendent was not in court but provided a statement.
A constable who arrived at the scene, told the court the initial report to police was that a person walking from a shop to a car had held a bottle of alcohol up indicating she was going to drink it.
The officer said at the traffic lights the defendant's speech was "slow and slurred" and her eyes were "slightly glazed".
The officer said she had to stand between the defendant to stop her "stumbling towards" a busy dual-carriageway during "rush hour".
The defendant told the court she was prescribed Pregabalin for "anxiety".
On the way to her car outside a shop she said she had joked with a person about drinking but said she had not consumed any alcohol and added: "I was fine driving".
She said her daughter died last year and added: "I am in a dream world from that. I have just being going through hell".
With her medication the defendant said she does have slurred speech "all the time" and her eyes are drowsy but she said she had been driving for years and knew she was "safe" to do so.
She said she didn't think she had been "stumbling" and added: "Medication does sort of relax you but you can still be alert. I am an experienced driver".
The court heard the defendant had her foster son and grandchild in the car.
A prosecutor said experts recommended a person shouldn't be driving with more than a Pregabalin level of 8 "but your reading was in between four and five times the therapeutic range".
The defendant denied in court her Pregabalin level would have been so high whilst driving, claiming she had "tablets down my bra" which she had taken after being stopped by police as she knew by that stage she would be spending the night in a PSNI Station and she "wanted to sleep".
Convicting the defendant, Judge Brady said she had no reason to doubt the police constable who gave evidence to the court.
The judge said the defendant had not previously mentioned in statements that she had taken extra tablets after being pulled over by police.
Judge Brady said: "I am sympathetic to her personal circumstances but think on that particular day she had too much Pregabalin in her system and I think given the observations of the police constable I think that it had affected her and I do think she was unfit to drive."
A defence lawyer said that with the tragic loss of her daughter the defendant "hasn't had her troubles to seek".
The defendant was banned from driving for a year and fined £175.
- Main picture: General scene picture from Google Maps of the area where the defendant was spoken to between Newtownards and Bangor.