Manager of whisky shop has personal licence suspended for six months

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The manager of a whisky shop has had his personal licence suspended for six months after a councillor said he was “disturbed” by his explanation of a drink-driving incident.

Johannes Van Der Wal, of the Old School House in Kilninver, is awaiting sentence after pleading guilty at Oban Sheriff Court earlier this year to charges of drink-driving and careless driving.

Mr Van Der Wal crashed a car on the A816 Oban to Lochgilphead road on Friday, November 15 last year.

The collision reportedly took the front wheels off another vehicle.

He later supplied police with a breath sample which gave a reading of 105 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath – almost five times the limit of 22 microgrammes.

Mr Van Der Wal pleaded guilty to two charges in March, when he was handed an interim ban from driving. He is due to be sentenced in August.

He appeared before the Argyll and Bute licensing board via Skype on Tuesday, June 23, for a review of his personal licence.

He said: ‘I apologise to the board and to the chief constable for taking time today and breaching licensing objectives.

‘This should not have been necessary and could have been avoided.

‘On November 15, I made a terrible mistake. I ignored the fact I had had alcohol and decided to drive home.

‘A big part of selling whisky is advising customers and letting them understand whisky. Occasionally we get new additions which we open for tasting experiences. These are small samples.

‘November 15 was a particularly quiet day and I decided to catch up with sampling some new additions from the past couple of weeks.

‘Some were high alcohol and so the alcohol built up quicker in my body. I believe what didn’t help me was that I didn’t eat anything in the afternoon as I usually do, or take coffee or juice.

‘I never thought I would be on the wrong side of the law myself, because I consider myself a very careful person. I also have a family and would never think of doing anything to harm them.

‘I assure you it is a terrible one-off mistake that has changed my life. I appreciate it happened and I am incredibly thankful that the other driver and myself walked away without any injuries.

‘I believe that the reason I had that level of alcohol was that over the last few years, I would have built up a certain tolerance. I am not a so-called ‘party person’ and I rarely drink except so-called ‘nightcaps’.

‘I have never consumed a ‘nightcap’ again and since November I have noticed a significant difference in my tolerance of alcohol.

‘I am, to this day, very angry with myself for letting this happen, not only for myself but for the other driver and the people I have let down.

‘I will educate people even more about the dangers of this, and I always have taken, and will take, licensing responsibility very seriously. I am ready to take care of all my licensing duties.’

Board chairman Councillor David Kinniburgh said: ‘I am a bit disturbed by some of the things you have said here today. You say that you have built up a tolerance – that implies to me that this hasn’t been a one-off.

‘You believe you can consume some alcohol and still be fit enough to drive – you ignored the fact you had been drinking. You had consumed five times the limit.

‘To me, it is just extraordinary that it never crossed your mind that you weren’t fit enough to drive on November 15.

‘Surely you would have been in such a state that it was perfectly obvious to you with the training you have had, or will have had?’

Mr Van Der Wal replied: ‘I believe I only discovered this after November 15, but I believe my tolerance built up over time.

‘I have never been a ‘pub’ person and so I was not aware of the tolerance building up.

‘I can only agree with the fact that I did not think. I have thought about this a million times in the last half a year.

‘I can only put it to the fact that I was caught in various small tastings and the excitement of it, and doing my normal job for the rest of the day.

‘In the past, if I consumed drinks on the odd occasion, my body would tell me that I had had enough. Some people are able to drink large quantities of alcohol in a small period of time – I cannot do that.

‘But small samples over a period of time – that is where the mistake happened. I should have thought that even on one of these samples, I should not drive home.’

Councillor Kinniburgh then said: ‘I am partly assured, but I find it impossible to believe you only consumed that much alcohol, because you must have had quite a bit.

‘I recognise you are saying that it was tastings, but you must have consumed a few of them to be five times over the limit.’

Mr Van Der Wal later said that he remembered having five ‘sample cups’ over the course of the day, four of which were of higher alcohol strength, between 55 and 60 per cent ABV.

After the licensing board went into a private discussion with all other parties removed from the Skype call, Mr Van Der Wal was advised that his licence was suspended until the end of December.