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A RETIRED Lib-Dem councillor has escaped jail after despite being caught drink driving for the THIRD time.

Jacquie Bell admitted getting behind the wheel of her car while more than three times the drink drive limit.

She had been spotted driving erratically in two streets in Dunbar earlier this year and police officers turned up at her door two hours after she had parked up for the evening.

The former East Lothian Council member claimed she started drinking alcohol after she had stopped driving, but decided to plead guilty after stating she could not afford to pay for a forensic report she claims would have proven her innocence.

On Thursday, Bell was banned from driving for the third time as Sheriff Frank Crowe handed down a 40-month driving ban and ordered the 58-year-old to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work in the community during a hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Bell admitted to driving with 68mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath at Spott Road and Brodie Road, Dunbar, on February 1 this year. The legal limit is just 22mg.

Allegations of mounting a traffic island and not co-operating with a police breath test during the incident were dropped by the Crown.

Solicitor Andrew Houston, defending, told the court his client had "devoted a large part of her life to public service" and that retirement has had an "isolating effect" on her.

Mr Houston said: "At times of extreme stress this is when she lapses into misuse.

"This is a lady who has devoted part of her life to public service and now she is retired she does not have the purpose her work gave her."

Mr Houston added Bell is now attending sessions with alcohol counselling service ELCA.

Sheriff Crowe told Bell: "This is a very troubling incident and you have given a lot of public service over the piece but there have been these instances of drink driving and as you appreciate the public take a very dim view of this.

"The circumstances here are this is a very dangerous sort of behaviour and you do accept you were over the limit at the time."

Bell, 58, took to social media to claim her innocence despite pleading guilty to drink drive charge at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last month.

Bell, of Dunbar, East Lothian, posted on Facebook: "The police did not stop me, they came to my house nearly two hours later.

"I cannot afford the cost of a forensic scientist to check out what was in my system at the time of my driving.

"The cost of a forensic report and pleading not guilty is £5-6000."

But the unrepentant drink driver was slammed by some Facebook users who claimed "a wee jail sentence would teach her a valuable lesson".

Stacie Connolly said: "What you did is illegal. Being an ex-councillor you should know this."

Paul Harthill posted: "Imagine the distress you would have caused if you had killed a loved one. After previously being caught and banned it seems lessons weren't learned on your part."

And Elaine Balloch added: "Oldest trick in the book - going home and start drinking and when the police turn up claim you have just started drinking. Do the crime, do the time."

The retired senior councillor was forced to step down from her cabinet position at the health and social care department after she pleaded guilty to drink driving in Edinburgh on June 6, 2011.

Bell, a three time Lib Dem Westminster candidate, was also banned from the road after she was found to be over the limit while driving in 2002.