A lorry driver led police on a 20-mile chase while sat behind the wheel of a huge HGV four times over the drink-drive limit.

Andrew Jason Champion had drunk at least a quarter of bottle of whiskey before driving down the M4 in May this year, a court heard.

The 53-year-old, who admitted that he had problems with drinking, was spotted driving erratically by police on the motorway but failed to stop despite being followed by blue lights.

After weaving along the carriageway, nearly hitting a broken-down vehicle on the hard shoulder and destroying traffic cones, Champion from Porthcawl was eventually stopped by police using a stinger device.

When he got out of his cab he was struggling to stand or speak.

The first police officer who spotted Champion described the driving as the worst he’d ever seen in his career.

Recorder Mark Powell QC, who sentenced Champion at Newport Crown Court on Monday, told the driver it was only by “the grace of God” he had not killed anyone during the chase.

The case was heard at Newport Crown Court (


Media Wales)

The court heard a PC Clifton had desperately tried to get Champion to pull over as he drove down the M4 towards Reading on May 6 this year.

Byron Broadstock, for the prosecution, told the court the officer was too scared to drive alongside the HGV as it weaved between lane one and the hard shoulder.

PC Clifton instead remained behind on the offside with his blue lights flashing as the HGV continued through the night at around 10.45pm.

Champion drove erratically for 20 miles, Mr Broadstock continued, with “multiple near-misses” of the roadside crash barrier and even taking out a row of traffic cones where the motorway had been reduced to just a single lane due to roadworks.

The most dangerous miss was with a broken-down vehicle on the hard shoulder where Champion drove dangerously close to the stricken car and the recovery vehicle in attendance.

In the end Thames Valley Police took up position on the M4 and used a stinger to bring the chase, which never exceeded 56mph, to an end.

Champion was breathalysed at the roadside, giving a reading of 174mg, and officers also found a small quantity of cannabis in his cab. Mr Broadstock said when Champion emerged from his cab “his speech was slurred and he was unsteady on his feet”.

Back at the police station Champion was breathalysed again, this time blowing 137mg.

The legal limit is 35mg. He told police he’d been so excited at getting the new driving job he’d downed a quarter of a bottle of whiskey that evening.

The driver, who is currently undergoing tests for bowel and stomach cancer, pleaded guilty on August 23 to dangerous driving and driving while over the alcohol limit.

Nik Strobl, defending, said Champion saw it as “the biggest mistake of his life” and he can’t understand what caused him to drive his HGV in that state.

The defendant, a self-confessed alcoholic, said his drinking had spiralled out of control two years ago when he found his friend's body after he had killed himself.

Things escalated around Christmas time when another friend died with liver cancer and Champion’s marriage began to break down over financial difficulties.

It was that need for cash that caused him to take the driving job in May, Mr Stobel said.

Recorder Powell QC was unsympathetic about Champion's problems and told him: “Frankly you had no business taking a job in those circumstances.”

The damage that he could’ve caused "doesn’t bear to think about", the judge added.

"There, by the grace of God, went considerable carnage if you’d come into contact with other road users of if the vehicle had been driven at a time when there was more traffic about," he said. "It is abundantly clear that you were not in a position to make judgements about this."

Champion has a number of previous driving offences with Recorder Powell QC pointing out his record was "very bad" between 1988 and 1991.

Sentencing Champion to a total of 14 months in prison he told him he had to take into account just how serious his dangerous driving had been and just how intoxicated he was.

Champion will have to serve half his sentence in custody before being released on licence.

He was also disqualified from driving for four years and seven months beginning from August 23, 2021, when the initial disqualification was imposed. He will also have to take an extended driving test before he can regain his driving licence.

Recorder Powell QC warned Champion of an "unpleasant detoxifying period in prison" adding that ultimately "that has to be the good of your health and the good of the public".

"I have to protect the public and punish people when they drive HGVs when they are four times over the limit," he said, dismissing Champion from court.

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