Met Police officer admits driving after sinking at least seven pints of cider at Romford pub

·3-min read
Former Met Police DC Lee Putnam appeared at Highburty Corner magistrates court (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Archive)
Former Met Police DC Lee Putnam appeared at Highburty Corner magistrates court (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Archive)

A Metropolitan Police officer who got behind the wheel of his car after sinking at least seven pints of cider was cleared of drink driving after a key witness was omitted from the criminal case against him.

DC Lee Putnam, 49, was spotted driving a BMW “erratically” in a car park after a night out at The Ship Inn in Romford with a Detective Sergeant colleague.

A resident, Mr Brice, says he was woken just after midnight by noises from the car park and saw the BMW driver struggling to park and being helped by two members of the public.

Around 15 minutes later, he heard an engine rev and saw the BMW crash into a parked vehicle, get stuck on the kerb, before managing to drive out of the car park for a spin around the block.

Putnam was arrested after Mr Brice called the police, and he later failed a breathalyser test while three times the legal drink drive limit, a tribunal was told.

However a criminal charge of drink driving against the officer was later dropped on a technicality, after Mr Brice’s key evidence had not been handed to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Details of the case emerged in a Met Police disciplinary tribunal against Putnam, who quit the force in June last year.

The tribunal, led by Cameron Brown QC, heard Putnam joined a colleague at the pub on September 4, 2020, but was “agitated” and eventually was told to go home for being too drunk.

The DC admitted continuing to drink at home, and had consumed between seven and eight pints of cider when he got into the BMW in a residential car park off Kidman Close in Romford.

The tribunal panel said Mr Brice, who gave evidence, had a good view of the car park from a first floor window, he saw the car parked “at an angle” and a man and a woman helping the driver.

“Mr Brice asked the male and female what was going on”, said the panel. “They indicated to him that the driver was drunk.”

When Mr Brice was later woken up, he told the tribunal he “looked out of his window to see the same BMW vehicle reverse directly back into another vehicle, which was parked in a bay in the centre of the car park.

“The driver then tried to drive forwards but did not get very far as he then got stuck on a kerb. The car kept stalling and going backwards and forwards.”

Mr Brice called the police at just after 12.30am, reporting a driver who is “obviously drunk as he has hit a few cars and a wall” and says he saw the slow-moving car leaving the car park and on to the public road, before returning a short while later.

The panel found the police officer was so drunk he struggled to talk, and he failed the breathalyser test around an hour after his arrest.

The criminal charge was brought before Highbury Corner magistrates court, but was dropped by the CPS in May 2021 after legal argument about “whether the location in which Putnam was arrested was a public or private place and if the offence was indeed complete”, said the tribunal

“At that time the CPS were not in possession of the statement of Mr Brice, which suggested that Putnam had in fact driven on a public road, albeit briefly.”

Putnam, who resigned shortly after the criminal charge had been dropped, accepted drink driving at the tribunal but argued through a representative that it had been a “spur of the moment” decision.

He pointed to the lack of criminal conviction as one of the factors that could lead to the incident being punished with a written warning.

However the panel accepted Mr Brice’s evidence about other vehicles being hit and Putnam drink driving on the road, concluding the incident amounted to gross misconduct.

It ruled that Putnam would have been sacked if he had not already resigned.

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