A ROOKIE police officer who hit the bottle because he was affected by sexual abuse cases was caught drink driving by colleagues.

James Hayward had only begun his training in January, but after just two months he was forced to quit after fellow officers stopped him one morning when he was more than twice the legal drink drive limit.

Hayward, 20, told a court that he had resigned as a police officer and was now choosing a university to go to to study criminology.

Exeter Magistrates' Court was told that police received information that the driver of a Ford Fiesta on the M5 near Taunton was under the influence of alcohol at 9.10am one day in March this year.

He was stopped on the A358 near the county town and told his colleagues that he had suffered a meltdown and he "felt over the limit", said prosecutor Lyndsey Baker.

They found an empty beer bottle in the footwell of his car and he was well over the drink drive limit.

He was arrested and the lower of two breath test readings later showed he had 74mg of alcohol in his breath - more than double the legal limit of 35mg.

Defending, Peter Seigne said Hayward, of Kingston St Mary, had begun his police training in January.

Mr Seigne said: "Part of the courses looked at criminal investigations.

"He began to feel particularly affected by discussions of historic sexual abuse."

The lawyer said Hayward began drinking too much and "began to wonder whether his life time ambition to become a police officer was the right thing for him with very unpleasant things being reported to him quite regularly".

Mr Seigne said as the course went on he began abusing alcohol more and more - and this was picked up by a member of the training team but Hayward "buried it under the carpet".

He went out with police colleagues the night before he was stopped and drank far too much and then decided the next morning to drive to his family home to discuss whether he had embarked on the right career.

Mr Seigne said Hayward either had to resign or be sacked for gross misconduct - and five days after his arrest he quit the Avon and Somerset force.

He admitted drink driving and was banned from driving for 17 months, and ordered to pay a total of £316 in fines and court costs by magistrates, who wished him well with his criminology degree, saying he was "getting his life back on track".