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22 November 2011, 18:45
A railway worker has been jailed after he fell unconscious due to alcohol while he was responsible for a major level crossing in West Yorkshire.
A district judge heard that 29 year old Peter Singleton was almost three times the drink-drive limit and more than seven times Network Rail's drinking limit when paramedics were called to his cabin at the Crofton Crossing, near Wakefield, last month.
Wakefield Magistrates' Court was told that a colleague found Singleton on the evening of October 18 slumped and unconscious with a train waiting for permission to cross.
Singleton is an alcoholic with a range of health problems, the court heard, but District Judge Jonathan Bennett said he had no choice but to send him to prison.
District Judge Bennett said: ``You held a very important and responsible job.
``The lives of literally hundreds of people were in your hands.''
Singleton, of Roger Drive, Sandal, near Wakefield, admitted at a previous hearing a charge of being unfit to work through drink or drugs while working as a gatekeeper on a level crossing.
The court was told a breath test showed Singleton had 99 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of his breath.
The legal limit for driving is 35 micrograms but Network Rail has a limit of 13 micrograms for staff, the court was told.
Singleton has no previous convictions but the court heard he has suffered from bulimia for many years and also has seizures.
The district judge was told one seizure last year resulted in some brain damage which left him with erratic behaviour.
Mike Devlin, defending, said his client had worked for Network Rail since 2004 but would now lose his job.
He said Singleton always managed his alcoholism so it did not have an impact on his work.
But, he said, on the day in question he brought a full two-litre bottle of cider in with him which was empty when it was found later.
Mr Devlin said: ``He's not making any excuses. He accepts full responsibility. He does appreciate the seriousness of his situation.''
Passing sentence, District Judge Bennett said: ``I cannot avoid the harm that could have been foreseeably caused by your actions.
``Fortunately no harm was caused.''
Singleton, who was wearing a checked blue-and-white shirt and jeans, was led out of court handcuffed to a security guard as his friends and family looked on.
Prosecutors said the crossing, on Doncaster Road, Wakefield, was the ``second busiest in Europe'' and can have 65 trains can go through it in a 24-hour period.
But Network Rail said Crofton Crossing was not as busy as many other crossings in the UK.