A drunken Catholic priest arrested by Australian police for drink-driving has returned one of the highest blood-alcohol readings ever recorded in New South Wales. Father Peter Jones, 58, a priest at St Patrick's Parish in South Grafton, blew a staggering 0.341 after he was stopped by police criss-crossing lanes on the Pacific Highway. A worried motorist travelling behind the priest's white Toyota Camry saw him allegedly crossing lanes as he travelled north around 1.15pm on Wednesday at Harwood, on the state's north coast.
When he was stopped, officers subjected the priest to a breath-test which allegedly returned an off-the-chart reading of "+.5" - the highest possible reading the breathalyser can handle. Taken back to nearby Maclean police station, the priest allegedly returned a 0.341 reading. While police do not record individual figures on drink-drive readings, a senior police source confirmed it was one of the highest blood-alcohol levels allegedly recorded in recent times.
The legal limit for all drivers in NSW(New South Wales) is 0.05, which can be reached after approximately two standards drinks for men, and one standard drink for women, in the first hour. When contacted on Friday, Father Jones, who earlier this year underwent a life-saving triple heart bypass, said his job was safe and that he was receiving counselling over the matter. Due to his state, Fr Jones was bailed into the custody of another priest, Father Rex Hackett, before being transported home.
Fr Jones was issued with a future court attendance notice and has been ordered to appear at Maclean Local Court on December 13. The car, which is understood to belong to the Catholic church, has been confiscated by police. Drug and alcohol educator Paul Dillon said a reading of that magnitude was potentially life-threatening. "I would imagine, the person with a level like that wouldn't actually expect them to survive." Mr Dillon added that to reach a reading above .3 would require sustained and prolonged drinking of hard liquor.
"Generally speaking it would be very hard to imagine someone could get to a level about 0.3 with beer, which is between three to five per cent alcohol," he said. "You really would be looking at significant amounts of spirits, which are 35 to 50 per cent alcohol - over a period of time."