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19 March 2019, 16:44
A 46-year-old man has been jailed after being caught driving the wrong way on the A14 near Stowmarket on Boxing Day last year, whilst under the influence of alcohol.
Remigijus Katinas, of Mingay Road, Thetford, appeared at Ipswich Crown Court today, Tuesday 19 March, where he was sentenced to 16 months' imprisonment. He was also disqualified from driving for two years and eight months and will have to take an extended retest before he can drive again.
Katinas had pleaded guilty before magistrates on Thursday 27 December to the offences of dangerous driving and failing to provide a specimen of breath for analysis.
Police were called at 12.20am on Wednesday 26 December by a member of the public reporting that they had seen a vehicle leave the service station at Beacon Hill on the A140 and enter the eastbound carriageway of the A14 travelling in the wrong direction.
Officers were immediately dispatched to locate the vehicle and during this time further reports came into the police control room, from other drivers travelling on the A14 who were forced to swerve to avoid a car travelling towards them, with full beam headlights on and at an estimated speed of between 70mph and 80mph.
Two officers on duty with the Roads and Armed Policing Team travelling on the A14 eastbound illuminated the blue lights of their vehicle and began to make their way towards Stowmarket.
Shortly after the turn-off for Haughley, the officers saw Katinas' car - a Volvo S40 - come into view and noted that the nearside front tyre had burst and come away from the wheel and there was extensive damage to the nearside of the vehicle. At this point it began to slow-down and the police vehicle made tactical contact with it to bring it to a stop in a lay-by.
The officers then approached the driver's door, where they found Katinas in the driver's seat, but he made no effort to get out of the car. The officers had to assist him out of the vehicle when it became apparent that he was unable to support his own body weight or walk unaided.
Katinas was arrested at the roadside and alcohol could be smelt on this breath, but he refused to give a breath test. Five hours after his arrest he did provide a non-evidential sample of 115 microgrammes in 100 millilitres of breath, more than three-times the legal limit.
In interview, it transpired that Katinas had spent the evening with friends in Little Stonham and it would appear his intention was to drive home to Thetford. The point at which he was stopped near Stowmarket is around 10 miles from Little Stonham.
One of the drivers faced with Katinas driving towards them on the A14 that morning was Detective Inspector Jim Gooding of Suffolk Police. He was on duty travelling in an unmarked police car.
Det Insp Gooding is an advanced police driver and recalled the moment he was faced with a vehicle travelling towards him at speed on his side of the carriageway. He said: "The vehicle approaching had its full beam lights on and it took me a moment to work out which lane it was in and therefore what evasive action I should take.
"In the seconds I had to respond, I remember steering to the left ensuring I was as close to the nearside verge as possible. Fortunately the vehicle passed me on the offside, travelling in the fast lane. I estimated that it was travelling in excess of 80mph.
"Whilst I am an experienced driver and have been a police officer for many years, the incident left me somewhat shaken - it was a very near miss."
Inspector Gary Miller, from the Roads and Armed Policing Team, said: "Remigijus Katinas showed total disregard for the lives of other people the moment he got behind the wheel of a car on that night.
"His actions were completely reckless and it is extremely fortunate that no-one was seriously injured or killed as a result. He wasn't even able to stand up when the officers got him out of the vehicle, so how on earth he thought he was capable of driving a car defies belief.
"Other road users faced with him coming towards them - including one of our own Inspectors with advanced driving skills - have spoken of the terrifying moment they realised another vehicle was driving the wrong way on their side of the carriageway, at high speed and with full headlights on.
"With that in mind, the bravery of the officers who responded to the call and had to collide with the car to bring it to a stop should be rightly acknowledged. I am proud of their actions as just another example of how Suffolk Police officers put themselves in harm's way to protect the public on a daily basis."