Six students have been banned from the roads for drink-driving while riding e-scooters following a series of complaints by residents.
North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court heard how Northumbria Police stopped the young men riding the orange for-hire scooters in the same area of Newcastle in the space of several hours on the same night.
People living in the Jesmond area of the city had previously complained about anti-social riders using the new e-scooters dangerously and in an anti-social manner.
One of the students caught in the early hours of February 25 was almost four times over the drink-drive limit, the court heard.
He and another student were stopped by police riding the e-scooters in circles in the middle of the road, magistrates were told.
Another student was caught with someone else on the back of the vehicle – in contravention of the rules – when he was stopped and found to be over the limit.
Kate Matthews, defending two of the students, told the court the e-scooter scheme was being piloted in the city and said even some members of the legal profession did not know they were covered by the same drink-drive rules as other motorised vehicles.
The scooters were free to ride overnight at the time, she said, and people needed a provisional licence and to read through terms and conditions – something they were unlikely to do in the early hours of the morning.
She said the hire firm running the e-scooter scheme has now switched off the machines so they cannot be ridden overnight.
Solicitor Sophie Allinson, who defended another two of the students, told the court there was a great deal of confusion regarding e-scooters and the law surrounding their use was “fast-paced”.
She said: “He has simply not appreciated that these are not toys, they are classed as vehicles.”
John Crawford, representing another student, said the e-scooters had a top speed of 10-15mph, adding: “The risk they pose is significantly lower than that of a car.”
Robert Lawson, prosecuting five of the six of the cases, which were heard separately, said one officer spotted a number of men scooting towards him on Osborne Road, Jesmond, at around 5.30am on February 25, having received “numerous” complaints about people riding in an anti-social way.
Police had already caught a number of students by this time.
Chairman of the Bench John Doyle banned five students for between 12 months and 30 months and imposed fines.
District Judge Paul Currer dealt with the other case and banned that young man for six months, having heard he only intended to ride 300-400m home.
The defendants were:
Joseph Vesey, 22, of Devonshire Place, Jesmond, who admitted drink-driving. He was found to have 49mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath when the legal limit was 35mg. He was banned from driving for 12 months and must pay £239 in fines and costs.
Jamie Swain, 21, from Bayswater Road, Jesmond, who admitted drink-driving. He was found to have 73mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath. He was banned for six months and ordered to pay £319 costs and fines, after the judge accepted he was only riding a short distance.
Rian Dunne, 20, of Cavendish Place, Jesmond, who admitted failing to provide a specimen and was banned from driving for 12 months and ordered to pay £239 in fines and costs. An initial road-side test showed he had 71mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath but he was unable to provide a full specimen at the police station.
He wrote to the court to apologise, saying he had embarrassed himself and disappointed his family.
George Richardson, 20, of Stepney Lane, Newcastle, who admitted drink-driving. The first year was found to have 136mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath and was banned from driving for 30 months and ordered to pay £319 in costs and fines. His solicitor said he was remorseful and apologetic.
William Attridge, 19, of Stepney Bank, Newcastle, who admitted drink-driving. He was seen riding in circles in the road with Richardson, and had a reading of 70ml of alcohol per 100ml of blood. He was banned for 18 months and ordered to pay £239 in fines and costs.
William McMullen, 19, of Falconer Street, Newcastle, who admitted drink-driving. The second year was tested and found to have 51mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath. He was banned from driving for 12 months and ordered to pay £239 costs and fines.
None of the students had previous convictions and five of them opted to take a drink-driver rehabilitation course to reduce the length of their ban.
After the court cases, Newcastle City Council reminded users they need to behave in a safe manner and said the scheme had been altered since it started to improve safety, including shutting them down overnight.
A spokesperson added: “The majority of riders are behaving in a safe and responsible manner but we will continue to monitor and take appropriate action where issues arise.”