'Social distancing means you can't arrest me': What Scarborough drink-driver told police, after crashing 340 miles from home

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A drink driver who demolished a traffic light 340 miles from his home during lockdown told police they could not arrest him because of social distancing rules.

Andrew Watson, of Scarborough, refused to get out of the wreckage of his car and told police they must stay two metres away from him because of coronavirus regulations.

He spat directly into the face of one officer after being removed from the vehicle and shouted homophobic abuse. He told them he would slit their throats if he caught Covid as a result of his arrest.

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He tried to bite two other police even though he was in a spit hood, Exeter Crown Court was told.


Watson crashed into two sets of traffic lights in Riviera Way, Torquay. He carried on after demolishing the first despite dragging debris and wires down the road.

He later said he was in the middle of a mental health crisis and was trying to kill himself in the accident.

Watson, aged 46, of Eastway, Eastfield, admitted three counts of assaulting emergency workers and refusing to supply a specimen of breath.

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He was jailed for 21 weeks, suspended for two years, and banned from driving for two years and four months by Judge Timothy Rose.

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He told him: “As I understand it, you deliberately caused this crash in an attempt to harm yourself. Police came to investigate drink driving. You had effectively been caught red handed.

”Far and away the most serious part of this was spitting in the face of a police officer. He was disgusted and appalled and worried for his well-being.

“It is utterly ridiculous you were telling the police to stay two metres away and saying ‘coronavirus, coronavirus, social distancing’.

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“Spitting at him was the complete reversal of what you were complaining about.”

Emily Pitts, prosecuting, said an off-duty police officer saw Watson’s car knock down one set of lights and carry on with the debris trailing behind him before hitting another on the afternoon of April 26 last year.

He was found asleep at the wheel but woke up and resisted attempts to remove him from the wreckage.

Miss Pitts said: “It took four police to get him out and he was shouting about social distancing. It was quite clear he was under the influence. He directed extremely abusive homophobic remarks at the police.”

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He claimed to have drunk only one glass of red wine and refused a breath, blood or urine test.

Paul Dentith, defending, said Watson was highly depressed and in the midst of a mental health crisis at the time.

His family circumstances have since improved and he is making good progress with the help of his doctors and the probation service, said Mr Dentith.