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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 September, 2004, 13:17 GMT 14:17 UK
Wrong-way M4 driver banned
Rebecca Denton
Police tried to flag Denton down, but she just stared ahead
A woman who drove the wrong way for 30 miles on a motorway has been banned from driving for five years.

Rebecca Denton, 37, later told police that she thought all the other traffic was going the wrong way.

Denton, of Pontypridd, south Wales, had to swerve to avoid oncoming cars and lorries as she drove at up to 80mph.

At Swansea Crown Court she admitted dangerous driving, and was given a three-year rehabilitation order and told to undergo psychiatric treatment.

The court was told Denton had a psychiatric illness at the time she drove west along the eastbound carriageway from junction 36 near Bridgend until the motorway ended at Pont Abraham in Carmarthenshire.

For someone to drive as you did almost defies belief
Judge John Diehl

Paul Hobson, prosecuting, said Denton was "heavily intoxicated" but failed to provide a breath sample for examination.

But he said her not guilty plea to failing to provide a sample was accepted because the dangerous driving charge covered the drinking.

The court heard that Denton had collected a friend who had absconded from a psychiatric unit at East Glamorgan Hospital, near Pontypridd, and took her to Cardiff for a night out.

After drinking two pints of lager, the pair decided to head for "a short break" in Tenby 80 miles west. Denton pulled off the motorway at junction 36 to use the Sarn service station.

Mr Hobson said she rejoined the motorway by driving down the exit slipway and began heading west on the eastbound side.

Her Toyota Celica was almost hit immediately by a petrol tanker, whose driver spotted her in the middle lane. He swerved onto the hard shoulder to avoid a collision, and called the police on a mobile phone.

Traffic camera picture of M4 junction 40
Rebecca Denton drove from junction 36 to the motorway's end

Police caught up with her at junction 44, when patrol cars drove parallel her in the correct carriageway and signalled across the central reservation for her to stop.

"But Williams simply waved at them and Denton fixed her eyes on the road ahead," said Mr Hobson.

At Port Talbot, where the motorway reduces to two lanes, a Renault Clio pulled out to overtake, only to face Denton's car head on. It swerved back into the slow lane, but Denton's car took off the driver's wing mirror.

Further along, Pc Justin Knight "bravely" volunteered to park his car in the centre lane with blue lights flashing hoping Denton would see him and stop, but Mr Hobson said she did not even slow down.

Denton appeared to accelerate on seeing a vehicle approaching her. At junction 49, where the motorway ended, police blocked the eastbound carriageway and waved her down.

After she was arrested, the court heard that Denton told police she thought all the other drivers had been on the wrong side of the road.

Denton also denied assisting a person detained under the Mental Health Act to abscond.

John Holmes, representing Denton, said she had a history of depression and had not been taking her medication. Although under the care of a psychiatrist she was able to lead a normal life in the community.

He said she had no previous convictions and had held a clean driving licence for 20 years.

Sentencing her, Judge John Diehl also ordered her to take an extended driving test before getting her licence back.

"For someone to drive as you did almost defies belief," he said. "It is truly miraculous no-one was injured or killed as a result of your grossly dangerous driving."




SEE ALSO:
Wrong-way M4 driver charged
22 Mar 04  |  Wales
Man's M4 suicide drive
09 May 03  |  Wales



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