Drink driver told police her dog was behind the wheel when car crashed into bus stop

A drink driver who crashed into a bus stop told police her dog was actually at the wheel.

Melissa Jenkins Johanson tried to reverse out of a restaurant car park four times at around midday on February 15 before drawing the attention of a man who called the police.

However, the 47-year-old did manage to successfully navigate out on the fifth attempt before driving down a footpath and crashing just metres from a children’s play area.

Swansea Crown Court heard how staff from Ocean Café Bar and Restaurant beside The Parrog in Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, rushed outside.

Prosecutor Hannah George told the court on Wednesday the defendant then went onto the main road and “paused for several minutes” before driving to the Seaview Hotel and then Tesco.

She was caught on CCTV at the supermarket.

In disbelief, Judge Huw Rees asked: “She was doing some shopping?”

“Yes,” Ms George replied. Judge Rees said Johanson’s actions “beggared belief”.

When two officers from Dyfed Powys Police visited Johanson at her home, she blamed the whole thing on her pet dog Lily.

“The officers arrived at her address and found the car substantially damaged,” Ms George continued.

“The officers then entered the property and were immediately hit with the smell of alcohol.

“She asked the police if they had any proof for her arrest and then said her friend had driven the car and also that her dog Lily drove the vehicle.”

The defendant was then asked to give a sample of breath but she refused.

She was then taken into custody and asked again to provide a sample, to which she refused again.

Officers asked her instead if they could take a sample of her blood, to which she also refused.

“Presumably because she was so intoxicated,” Judge Rees responded.

“She was babbling incoherent nonsense about her dog for a start.”

Eyewitnesses who stood helplessly and watched Johanson driving around the park with a half-drunk bottle of wine in her vehicle said she had no thought for anyone around her.

The defendant was banned from driving at the time after being convicted of drink driving in November last year.

Dean Pulling, defending, said his client was a professional woman and had held down a good job in her career in food manufacturing for 20 years.

He also said she had a long history of mental health difficulties and has been diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder.

Mr Pulling went on to point out that Johanson was at the time of the offences in February driving at a relatively slow speed and did not injure anyone.

“She did not seem to be driving erratically,” he told the court, “and the incident did not involve any form of police pursuit”.

Due to her cooperation with her community service order handed to her for her previous offending, Mr Pulling explained that he thought there was a realistic prospect of rehabilitation in the case.

“Prior to November she had no previous convictions,” he added.

Turning to the defendant, Judge Rees said: “For some considerable period in recent years drink has been your nemesis. On November last year you were convicted of driving a vehicle while under the influence of excess alcohol.

“You were given an opportunity under the auspices of a 12-month community order to which your response has been slow in part.

“On February 15 this year you committed these offences. You were disqualified from driving only three months before. You had consumed alcohol and for that reason you failed to provide a specimen.

“When police arrived at your address there was an all-consuming smell of alcohol. In your babbling incoherence you showed how intoxicated you were. You were driving in this state in and around Ocean View car park.

“It is an area of open land which includes a children’s play area, and you were there at midday.

“You made four attempts to reverse out of the car park before then mounting the footpath – clearly not for driving on. You must have thought it was the road out.

“Your attitude towards the offending causes additional concern. You failed to attend the interview with the probation officer, and you had an unsatisfactory response initially to your community order.

“Your attitude towards Dyfed Alcohol and Drug Programme has been sporadic engagement.

“Whatever your assessment of this is, let me be very clear – your offending is very serious. Your selfish decision to drink alcohol in large measure and your ignorance to the consequences meant someone, perhaps a child, could have been seriously injured, maimed, or even killed.”

Taking into account Johanson’s “background of stability and education” as well as her “good employment history” and eventual cooperation with a community order, Judge Rees sentenced the defendant to 12 months, suspended for 18 months.

She must complete a 15-day rehabilitation course, 150 hours of unpaid work and ensure she visits Swansea Crown each month before a judge to monitor her progress with regard to alcohol consumption.

She is also disqualified from driving for three years.