Friday, 24 February 2017

MP's Wife Caught Drink-Driving After Asking Police To Assist In Search For Lost Dogs

Arriving At Court: Claire Podbielski-Stewart
The wife of Tory MP Colonel Bob Stewart was caught driving at twice the drinks limit after pulling-over and asking police to help search for her lost dogs.

Aristocrat Claire Podbielski-Stewart, 51, had been drinking gin and tonic’s before searching for the escaped pets at 11.20pm near the couple’s £1.45m constituency home.

Her 67 year-old husband is the MP for Beckenham and they met when he was a UN commander in Bosnia and she worked for the Red Cross.

Podbielski-Stewart, of Shortlands Road, Shortlands, the daughter of a Polish Count, appeared alone and unrepresented at Bromley Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

She did not ask for the case to be adjourned to allow her to seek legal representation and did not request the free duty solicitor.

She pleaded guilty to driving her ten year-old 2.4 litre diesel silver Volvo in Shortlands Road on February 3 with 71 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath.

The legal limit is 35.

Prosecutor Miss Denise Clewes told the court: “Officers were on duty dealing with an incident when a Volvo drove past and pulled over in front of them.

“Mrs Podbielski-Stewart got out of the driver’s side of the Volvo and went to the front passenger-side window of the police vehicle.

“One of the officers was dealing with the London Ambulance Service so a second officer got out to speak and when he did she asked: ‘Can you help me find my dogs?’

MP Bob & Claire
“He could detect the strong smell of alcohol on her breath and she was unsteady on her feet.

“She was asked if she had anything to drink that night and replied: ‘A few gin and tonics. I don’t know.’

“She was asked if she knew it was an offence to drive when you have had too much to drink and she said she did.”

A second police unit was called and Podbielski-Stewart was arrested and taken to Bromley Police Station.

“I should not have taken the car,” she calmly told the magistrates in her thick accent from behind the secure glass-panelled dock.

“I did not realise how much I had drunk and asked the police officers by chance.”

Her husband has been the local MP since 2010 and the couple live in a seven-bedroom home set in half an acre of land.

Podbielski-Stewart, who has no previous convictions, was disqualified from driving for seventeen months and fined £576, with £85 costs and ordered to pay a £60 victim surcharge.

Bench Chairwoman Pauline Pierce told her: “This alcohol reading is a the second level.”

That prevented the magistrates from disqualifying Podbielski-Stewart for the minimum of twelve months. 

Banned: Leaving Court
She agreed to pay to take the drink-drive rehabilitation course, which will reduce the ban by 25%.

“If you successfully complete the course your disqualification will be reduced by seventeen weeks,” added Mrs Pierce.

Podbielski-Stewart had arrived at court early and was dropped-off by a car that stopped across the road.

There was no sign of her MP husband.

She was dressed in a dark blue double-breasted coat, with brass buttons, with a light-blue blouse and darker blue jacket underneath.

She was wearing skinny jeans and black boots.

When approached outside she shook her head and kept walking when asked to discuss the case.

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