Plymouth judge slams hospital escapee for his 'stupid' offence
A SUSPECTED drink-driver escaped from the police because he had a phobia of hospitals, a court heard.
Malcolm Stewart, aged 46, walked out of Derriford Hospital after his arrest while an officer was distracted, Plymouth Crown Court was told.
A helicopter and a dog team was sent to search for him – but Stewart was found after a call from his wife.
Jason Beal, for Stewart, said his client had a "phobia of hospitals".
Judge David Ticehurst replied. "He has probably got a phobia of prisons, too."
He added: "What an extremely stupid thing to do. This cost a huge amount of money to the public purse. The helicopter could have been used to look for proper criminals."
Stewart replied from the dock: "I did not realise it would cause such a situation. I apologise."
He was given a 12-month community order with 100 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay £150 towards prosecution costs.
Stewart, of Merafield Road, Plympton, admitted escaping from lawful custody on February 23.
David Gittins, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said police were called to New Road, Bickleigh, after a report of an accident.
He said Stewart was arrested and an officer was taking him to a police station when he complained of chest pains.
Mr Gittins said the officer was talking to a colleague at Derriford Hospital when Stewart disappeared.
He added: "He took the opportunity to walk out of the hospital and escape."
Mr Gittins said the force helicopter and a dog team was sent to search for the fugitive but he was not located.
He added he was found at his lock-up in Colebrook after a phone call from his wife at about 1am.
Mr Beal said Stewart had not planned his escape and was in full-time work.
Stewart denies drink-driving on the same day. He allegedly drove a Ford Fiesta in New Road, Bickleigh, with 44 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35. A trial is to be fixed before city magistrates.