A Cunningsburgh resident caught four times the limit in Perthshire has been allowed to keep his vehicle after a sheriff was told it was a valuable 155 miles per hour sports car.
Sheriff Robert McCreadie rejected the Crown’s bid to confiscate Alan Murphy’s Mercedes convertible after hearing he paid £25,000 for it.
Solicitor Paul Ralph said taking Murphy’s car would be too heavy a punishment because of the value of the vehicle.
Road safety campaigners blasted the ruling making it harder to confiscate luxury cars from wealthy drink drivers than cars from poorer people committing the same offence.
Murphy is an optical technician at Miller Opticians in Lerwick, owned by his partner Gillian Miller.
Joyce Beasley of the Scottish Campaign against Irresponsible Drivers (SCID) said the law had created “one rule for the rich and another for the poor.”
She said: “The whole purpose of the forfeiture scheme is to act as a great deterrent to drivers who endanger and devastate lives by driving while under the influence of drink.
“To take into account the value of a drink driver’s car places greater value on the vehicle than on the potential consequences of a driver’s actions.
“It also creates a two-tier system whereby those who can afford expensive vehicles are protected from the law.”
Perth Sheriff Court was told on Monday that Murphy, 48, was caught sitting in his five-litre convertible Mercedes SL500 while nearly four times over the legal limit.
He admitted being drunk in charge of the car outside the Atholl Palace Hotel in Pitlochry, Perthshire, on 30th July this year.
The businessman had booked into the hotel for a two-day drinking session, the court was told, and the Crown sought forfeiture of his car to protect the public.
Sheriff Robert McCreadie said: “This car was purchased for £25,000. It is a Mercedes SL500 and the fact that it is a car with a particularly high value may be relevant.
“It may be that because the car has a particularly high value it would be disproportionate to forfeit it. The value of the car would need to be supported by vouching of its value.
“The reading was 123 microgrammes of alcohol, which is nearly four times over the limit. This behaviour is against everyone’s interest – the public, his own and his family’s. It is imperative that he deals with it.”
Mr Ralph, defending, told the court that the car was now worth in the region of £9,000 and was used by Murphy, his wife and two colleagues.
He said: “My submission is that there is sufficient evidence, given the value of the vehicle, that the punitive weight involved in forfeiting the vehicle would outweigh what one would normally consider by way of a financial penalty.”
Sheriff McCreadie agreed that “in all the circumstances” the Crown’s motion for forfeiture should be refused and Murphy was allowed to keep the sports car.
Murphy was banned from driving for 18 months and placed on community payback for nine months with a condition to get alcohol counselling. He was not fined.
The law was recently changed so first-time drink-drivers who were at least three times the legal limit, or refuse a breath test, could have their vehicles confiscated and sold. More than 150 vehicles have been forfeited.