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Councillor admits drink driving

PUBLISHED: 12:31 01 October 2008 | UPDATED: 10:41 12 July 2010

A prominent Norfolk county and district councillor has been disqualified from driving for two years and given a 12 month supervision order after pleading guilty to drink driving.

A PROMINENT Norfolk county and district councillor has been disqualified from driving for two years and given a 12-month supervision order after pleading guilty to drink driving.

Magistrates sitting at Swaffham also told Stella Rice, who appeared before the court under her married name of Tilcock, she must complete a drink driver's programme and would have to pay £60 in court costs.

This week Rice's political career remained in question, with the Conservative groups on both South Norfolk District Council and Norfolk County Council due to meet in the coming weeks to decide whether to reinstate her after her suspension pending the case.

Rice, 50, of Semere Green Lane, Dickleburgh, pleaded guilty to one count of drink driving.

The court heard that when she was stopped by police on the evening of September 13, a breath test revealed she was more than three times over the legal drink drive limit.

She had 113mcg of alcohol in 100 ml of breath when the legal limit is 35 mcg.

Chris Brown, defending, told magistrates that Rice, who represents the Long Stratton area, had been of "impeccable character" up to the point of her arrest.

He said the councillor had a "devotion to public service" and the incident had been "the worst of a downward spiral".

He said in recent years Rice had suffered ill health, the breakdown of her marriage and the loss of a business, and argued Rice had never intended to drink drive and had gone to a function at the Barnham Broom Hotel, near Norwich, intending to get a lift home.

However, during the evening she had started to feel unwell and decided to drive herself home.

She was stopped just 50 yards after the exit of the venue as she was indicating to turn into a layby.

Her intention had been to return to the hotel and rent a room for the night.

Sentencing, chairman of the bench Julia Richardson said: "We have taken into account the mitigation but the level of alcohol was so high that we feel we have no option but to consider a community penalty."

Rice was told her 24-month driving ban could be reduced to 18 months if she undertook a drink drive rehabilitation course at her own expense.

Speaking after the case Rice said: "It is a very, very difficult situation for me and I want to apologise for my behaviour.

"This has been brought about by a series of unfortunate events culminating in where I am today.

"I just want to draw a line under this and continue to serve the community of Long Stratton and Norfolk which I feel passionately about."

Prior to the case Rice was suspended from the Conservative groups on both the district and county council.

On South Norfolk Council she was suspended from all the committees on which she served including the district's crime reduction partnership.

On Norfolk County Council she was suspended from her role as deputy cabinet member for adult social services but allowed to continue to serve on the general purposes (regulatory) committee, equalities working group, and the children's services review panel.

The Conservative leaders of both councils said whether Rice was allowed back into the Conservative groups was a matter for the groups to decide at future meetings.

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