Coach driver blames dope-smoking Newcastle fans for getting him high

Posted On 25 Feb 2020 at 5:35 pm

A stoned driver blamed “a coachload of Geordies” for getting him high on cannabis as he prepared to take about 50 Newcastle United football fans home to the north east.

Michael Saunderson, 49, who was arrested outside the Amex Stadium in Falmer, said that the strong smell of cannabis on his coach was down to the stranded fans themselves.

Saunderson said that some of his 50 passengers had smoked on the 360-mile journey south for the match against Brighton and Hove Albion.

Roger Booth, prosecuting, told Brighton magistrates that Saunderson was caught after a patrolling police officer smelt cannabis in the coach park at the ground.

Mr Booth said that the driver was detained about 10 minutes from the end of the match last April as the Magpies looked set to steal a 1-0 win.

Just moments earlier, though, the visiting side let victory slip from their grasp as the Seagulls swooped to level the score in a game which ended in a 1-1 draw.

In the coach park, two officers followed their noses to the 17-ton Volvo coach.

When one driver came to the front door of the coach, Saunderson tried to leave by the back door, with the keys on him, but he was stopped by PC Jayan Shah.

The driver, from Rosalind Street, Ashington, Northumberland, failed a drug test at the scene and later at the custody centre in Crowhurst Road, Hollingbury.

He told PC Gary Douglas that he had not smoked any cannabis in the past seven days.

PC Douglas said: “He said that some people on the coach were smoking cannabis on the way down and he felt unable to control 40 or 50 football fans and that he was unable to stop them.

“He said that he hadn’t smoked any himself.”

The other driver also failed a drug test at the ground but, Mr Booth said, he was not charged after being unable to provide a specimen for analysis at the police station.

Saunderson denied being in charge of a coach with excess drugs in his system at an earlier hearing.

The bench at Brighton Magistrates’ Court found the case proven in his absence this afternoon (Tuesday 25 February).

The court was told that he already had six points on his licence and faced a ban under the “totting up” rules.

He had previous convictions for drink driving and driving while banned as well as having drugs, driving without due care and attention and being drunk and disorderly.

His case was adjourned for sentence until Friday 27 March.

Brighton and Hove Albion arranged relief drivers through Seagulls Travel so that the stranded fans could make the six to seven-hour trip home safely.

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