JERMAINE PENNANT SPARED JAIL
Stoke City's Jermaine Pennant has been given an eight-week jail sentence, suspended for a year, and has been disqualified from driving for three years after he admitted drink-driving.
The winger was more than twice the limit when he got behind the wheel of his BMW to drive back from Manchester in the early hours of April 29, Trafford Magistrates' Court heard.
The 29-year-old was "depressed and stressed" after months of turmoil in his private life and suffering taunts while in a nightclub, it was claimed.
Pennant, who admitted his third drink-drive conviction in eight years, had been dumped by text message by his girlfriend on the night of the offence and another ex and the mother of his 20-month-old child had not turned up to see him play earlier in the day.
He was driving home from the nightclub and was involved in a minor road accident before he was arrested at the scene.
The defendant was breathtested and gave a reading of 89mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath. The legal limit is 35mg.
Pennant, of Pool Lane, Sandbach, Cheshire, had already been banned form driving earlier that month by magistrates in Cannock, Staffordshire, for totting up too many points on his licence.
But he was not aware that he was banned because the letter had not reached him, the court heard.
On Tuesday he admitted drink-driving, driving while disqualified, and driving without insurance.
He was also fined £80 costs and given a 12-month supervision order.
Passing sentence, District Judge Khalid Qureshi told Pennant he accepted the defendant did not know he should not have been driving, but the previous convictions and high alcohol reading aggravated the offence.
But District Judge Qureshi said he could suspend a jail term because the previous offences were committed a "considerable time" ago and because of the situation Pennant found himself in, in the nightclub.
"I accept this had not been a pre-planned decision to drive," District Judge Qureshi said.
"The circumstances which arose you found difficult to deal with and led you to believe the only option you had was to drive your vehicle, to get away from an unpleasant situation, you had no option."
Mike Stephenson, defending, told the court despite the former Arsenal, Liverpool and Birmingham midfielder's previous convictions he had now matured.
In February 2004 he was disqualified from driving for 16 months.
But in March 2005 he was caught driving while disqualified and while over the alcohol limit again and was jailed for three months.
"He was a wayward young man with possibly too much money," Mr Stephenson told the court.
"That was the problem then. Seven years later he's grown up and disciplined himself with the help of Stoke City and the manager who has been a disciplinarian with the defendant."
Earlier the court heard Pennant's relationship with the mother of his child had broken down and he left the family home in Altrincham and went to live in Sandbach.
But the letter informing him he had been banned from driving for six months for totting up too many points went to his old address - so he did not know he was banned or that his insurance was therefore invalid.
After moving to Sandbach he began a relationship with another woman but "comments were made by the press and on Twitter", Mr Stephenson said, and the relationship was, "doomed from the beginning".
At the same time he was having trouble seeing his child.
"For the last 10 months he has been under some stress and depression. It's no excuse but it's a fact," Mr Stephenson said.
On April 28 his estranged partner did not turn up with their child to see him play in Stoke's 1-1 draw with Arsenal and this left him "saddened", the court heard.
"He then went home following the match to discover his partner had left," Mr Stephenson added. "Taken all her items with her. He was informed by text that the relationship was over.
"He was home alone depressed and stressed."
Mr Stephenson said Pennant's friends invited him out and he ended up in a nightclub in Manchester - but there were further problems.
"Whilst in that nightclub, a certain individual in that club was making certain comments about his former partner, very personal comments.
"I don't want to mention in open court with the press here, but it was a very distressing thing they both suffered."
Mr Stephenson said Pennant's telephone then began to ring with people calling him about the comments and to ask him "if this was true".
"That was the straw that broke the camel's back," Mr Stephenson added.
"All the hotels were full. He got into his car and drove home to a place of safety."
Mr Stephenson said the defendant had "no idea" he was already disqualified from driving and that his insurance was therefore invalid, because of the mix-up over his address.
And he also denied any responsibility for the crash on his way home - and had not faced any charge in relation to that.
Danielle Allanson, prosecuting, told the court Pennant's white BMW was in collision with a silver Audi TT, which was hit side-on and spun round 360 degrees.
Mrs Allanson said the other driver's witness statement described him seeing a "flash of white" with the other car coming towards him at "quite a pace".
"He believed the other car must have gone through a red light to hit him," Mrs Allanson added.
The other driver was treated in hospital for whiplash.
The court heard Pennant and the mother of his child, who came to court with the defendant, were now hoping for a reconciliation in their relationship.
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