A FORMER church minister lied to police after crashing his car while more than four times over the drink drive limit.

Appearing at North East Wales Magistrates’ Court for sentencing following an earlier adjournment for a pre-sentence report, Michael Anthony Cornes, had claimed he had drunk a bottle of wine at home before officers arrived at his door to question him.

But after the bench rejected his story and insisted he would face sentencing based on a higher alcohol reading he had given, the 55-year-old was banned from driving for three years and told he was lucky not to be in custody.

Prosecutor, Helen Tench, said the defendant was seen hitting a post at The Bistre filling station in Buckley three times in his Vauxhall prompting an eye witness to contact police officers who proceeded to visit his home where he provided an initial alcohol reading of 151 microgrammes compared to the legal limit of 35.

Cornes, of Bod Offa Drive, Buckley, was arrested and a further test at the police station produced a reading of 147, with the defendant telling officers he had drunk some wine and accepting he was over the limit.

However, he added that after he returned home in his car he had drank the remnants of a bottle of wine before opening a full bottle.

He said he was “in a state” but agreed that he had lied to police by claiming he had not been drinking at all before driving.

Magistrates said his evidence had been inconsistent since the moment of his arrest and Cornes’ level of driving impairment clearly indicated a higher level of consumption than he would wish the court to believe.

Probation officer Johnny Belbin said Cornes had received divorce papers on the day of the offence and had purchased a litre bottle of wine which he had drunk before driving to his mother’s house and making her dinner.

He had then driven to the garage and bought two more bottles and Mr Belbin said Cornes wanted to apologise for “not being completely honest” with officers.

Cornes had been a church minister for nine years but was now working as a self-employed painter and decorator and had fallen into the habit of binge drinking said Mr Belbin.

Victoria Hanley, defending, said her client was now attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and was “someone who is not going to sit back and let this happen again”.

A grandfather of two, he was “extremely distressed” by what had happened, she added.

Chair of the bench, Paul Rutt, told Cornes he would normally be facing custody such was the high alcohol reading but he had decided to draw back from a jail sentence due to the offender’s remorse and the effort he had made since the incident to address his drinking.

“The steps you have taken is to your credit,” he added, before banning Cornes from driving for three years and making him the subject of a 12 month community order with 180 hours unpaid work and a six month alcohol treatment requirement. He will also pay costs of £300 and a victim surcharge of £85.