A bus driver from Melksham, seen drinking Special Brew lager while on duty, has been banned from driving for 18 months and fined more than £200.

Stephen Ackland, 55, of Ferris Grove, was seen drinking a can of super-strength lager outside Sainsbury’s store in Frome on January 24 before getting into his bus. A member of the public reported the sighting to Avon and Somerset Police, who alerted officers in Melksham.

He was stopped by officers in the town’s Market Place, 15 miles away, after driving the bus through Trowbridge. He was found to have a breath alcochol reading of 86 mg in 100 ml of breath, and arrested.

Appearing at North West Wiltshire Magistrates Court last Friday, Ackland pleaded guilty to drink-driving, was banned and fined £215. He was fired from Faresaver Buses after his arrest and is now on Income Support.

His solicitor, Moses Uzodima-Tawo, said: “He is a professional driver and he has, I understand, lost his job as a consequence and his chosen career is in tatters, so he will have to make another choice of career.”

Passing sentence, magistrate David Morrell said: “Driving with excess alcohol is normally a very serious offence, but this is much worse, as you are a bus driver and in charge of the public’s safety. I am prepared to offer a drink-driver’s rehabilitation course.”

If Mr Ackland completes the course by February 2014, he will get his licence back four months early.

His total fine of £215 will be paid to the court in several instalments.