Driver seen ‘drifting’ from lane to lane on M4 had taken 20 Valium tablets

A motorist seen “drifting” from lane to lane on the M4 before hitting the central reservation barrier had taken 20 Valium tablets and was in “no fit state to do anything, least of all drive”, a court has heard. Earlier that night Scott Garnett had been woken up by fellow drivers who found him asleep at the wheel of his car at a set of traffic lights in Swansea.

Swansea Crown Court heard that when Garnett’s driving came to an end he appeared to be “not fully conscious” and was confused about where he was, seemingly mistaking Port Talbot for Maesteg. His advocate told the court that the defendant had been a well-respected plasterer of 20 years standing before “inexplicably” starting to take heroin.

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Sian Cutter, prosecuting, said that at 10pm on April 1 this year Garnett’s Volkswagen Golf was the first car in a line of vehicles stopped at the traffic lights at the junction of Gors Avenue and Carmarthen Road in Swansea. When the lights turned to green the Golf did not move. The court heard the lights went through another cycle and turned to green once again and for a second time the VW did not move.

Miss Cutter said a number of motorists got out of their cars and approached the Golf and found the defendant asleep at the wheel. They banged on the windows to rouse the 47-year-old and Garnett then drove off. One of the other motorists was so concerned by the defendant’s behaviour she followed him through Swansea for a period of time before losing sight of him.

The court heard Garnett’s Golf was seen later that night by other drivers heading eastbound on the M4 motorway through Port Talbot. Near junction 41 his car was seen “drifting” from one lane to another before overtaking a vehicle – colliding with the central reservation and “scraping” along barrier as it did so – and then cutting across the inside lane and coming to a stop on the hard shoulder. Drivers who saw what was happening stopped their cars and approached the Golf and described the driver as “appearing not fully conscious”. Police were soon on the scene and found Garnett to be unsteady on his feet and slurring his words. Miss Cutter said the defendant appeared “confused” about where he was and where was going, at one stage apparently thinking he was in Maesteg. The defendant gave negative roadside alcohol and drug swipe tests but at the police station refused to provide a urine sample for analysis. The court heard police calculated that even if Garnett had driven the most direct route from the traffic lights to where he finally stopped he would have covered a distance of more than eight miles.

Scott Anthony Garnett, of Alun Road, Mayhill, Swansea, admitted dangerous driving and failing to provide a sample for analysis. He has four previous convictions for seven offences but none of a like nature. The court heard that at his earlier plea hearing the defendant said he had consumed five Valium tablets on the night in question but when that number was challenged by the judge he had admitted he had actually taken 20.

Dan Griffiths, for Garnett, said it was accepted the defendant had taken a large number of diazepam tablets which would have had soporific effects. He said the defendant accepted he was “not in a fit state to do anything, least of drive a motor vehicle”, and had been shocked at the state he was in when shown CCTV from the police station.

The advocate said Garnett had worked as a plasterer for 20 years and had enjoyed a good reputation in that trade before “inexplicably” starting to take heroin in 2017. He said he his client felt shame and guilty for his behaviour on the night in question and for the impact the prison sentence he was facing was going to have with his mother with whom he lived.

Judge Huw Rees told Garnett he had plainly been unfit to drive on the night of April 1 and should not have been behind the wheel. He said it was a serious example of dangerous driving committed while under the influence of drugs.

With a one-quarter discount for his guilty pleas Garnett was sentenced to 12 months in prison for dangerous driving while no separate penalty was imposed for failing to provide a sample. He will serve up to half that period in custody before being released on licence to serve the remainder in the community. The defendant was disqualified from driving for two years with the ban extended by an extra six months to account for the time he will be behind bars.

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