TV personality, Ant McPartlin, was arrested following a three-car collision in Richmond on 18 March and found to have 75 microgrammes (µg) of alcohol per 100 ml of breath, which is more than twice the legal limit of 35µg.
During the hearing the Prosecutor, Katie Sinnett-Jones, told the court that the incident happened at around 3.50pm on 18 March on Lower Richmond Road. She explained that Mr McPartlin was driving around a "sharp bend and lost control" and he veered onto the wrong side of the road. He collided with another car (also a Mini) before driving “straight into the front of an oncoming car.”
In a statement, the driver of the other Mini said:
"Myself and my family were in deep shock as we believed we could have died as a result of Mr McPartlin's reckless driving."
Mr McPartlin's barrister, Liam Walker, said his client expressed both his "sorrow and regret" and realises that the consequences could have been worse. He explained to the court that Mr McPartlin understands that those in the public eye should provide a positive example to others and that this represents a “turning point” for him.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed that a number of individuals had been treated at the scene for minor injuries, and a child was taken to hospital as a precaution.
The issue of addiction was raised and Mr Walker advised the court that Mr McPartlin was seeking help for “alcohol and emotional issues” at the time of the offence. He told District Judge (DJ) Barbara Barnes that the incident was a result of a “brief relapse” which the defendant’s mother (a passenger in the car at the time) was unaware of.
Mr Walker said:
"Anthony McPartlin is sorry and is doing everything he can to ensure this never happens again. He hopes that in time he can make himself better and that he might be forgiven by all of the many people he knows and he feels he has let down terribly."
After he was charged in March, Mr McPartlin’s publicist confirmed that he was taking time away from his TV commitments in order to seek treatment.
In a letter read out during his sentencing hearing, Mr McPartlin also said he was “ashamed and mortified” and “accepts full responsibility” for what happened.
Extracts from a statement that he had given to police included the words “ashamed”, “mortified”, “sorry” and “regret” and he appeared as far removed from his TV persona as the public will likely have ever witnessed.
During Sentencing, DJ Barnes said:
"At the time when it happened you were struggling with various personal problems and also alcohol issues for some months. This incident happened, sadly, when it seems you suffered a brief relapse.”
She described Mr McPartlin's previous "exemplary character", adding:
"I think it will have quite an impact on you to know you're no longer a man of good character. Because of the seriousness of this offence, the financial pain must be imposed on you as on any other offender.”
DJ Barnes described McPartlin as a "well-known and successful entertainer" and took his weekly income of approximately £130,000 into consideration when determining a suitable sentence.
Ultimately, DJ Barnes handed Mr McPartlin a disqualification from driving for 20 months in addition to a fine of £86,000 which is thought to be one of the largest given by a British court for a drink driving offence.
Following sentence, Mr McPartlin said:
“I let myself down, I let a lot of people down, for that I’m truly sorry.”
He also said that he was “thankful no-one was hurt” as a result of the collision.
Drink Driving Specialist’s View
There is often talk that celebrities get preferential treatment during court proceedings or in some cases “get the book thrown at them” to be used as an example and this present case is an interesting example.
When considering penalty the court’s role is to first determine a starting point. In doing so, they will consider the offender’s previous driving history/convictions and the alcohol level in the case.
In this case, Mr McPartlin had a clean driving history and a result of 75µg. There are 4 brackets of sentencing for drink driving cases and this places him in the bracket for breath results between 60µg and 89µg. The Magistrates’ guidelines suggests a starting point of a 17 month disqualification however they have discretion and can impose up to a 22 month disqualification.
Once the starting point has been established the court considers aggravating and mitigation factors which affect the degree of culpability and potential harm (or lack of).
Mr McPartlin was involved in an accident which was arguably not a minor collision. The incident involved three cars, with passengers (including a child) and it took place in the middle of the afternoon which could potentially have been a busy time of day. Each of these are, individually, an aggravating factor that indicate a higher degree of culpability/harm and each one would have justified imposing the maximum disqualification.
The mitigating factors in this case are that Mr McPartlin has admitted to having problems with addiction and this has been well publicised. He has been seeking help for this problem and demonstrated a significant degree of remorse and regret. In addition, Mr McPartlin could face further consequences outside of the courtroom such as a career that could potentially be beyond repair.
The court weighed up all of these factors when determining the penalty and ultimately, DJ Barnes decided on a 20 month disqualification.
Readers may assume that Mr McPartlin has been heavily penalised financially, however drink driving carries a Level 5 and Band C fine. Level 5 means that the fine is potentially unlimited and the Band C provides the court with guidance on how to determine an appropriate amount and this is where I think readers may be given some perspective.
Legislation states that a Band C fine should equate to 150% of the offender’s weekly earnings but the range the court can consider is between 125% - 175%. Mr McPartlin’s weekly earnings were stated as being £130,000, meaning that the starting point could have been £195,000 with a minimum fine being £162,500 if the Band C guidelines were adhered to. The court do take into account an offender’s income and expenditure which we have no knowledge of in this case yet whilst the figure of £89,000 initially seems high, it appears in fact to be a lot less than the guidelines suggest.
I have represented drink drivers now for over 10 years and the circumstances of this case would have led me to advise my client to expect the maximum 22 month disqualification. Whilst the mitigation is compelling in respect of personal problems and addiction, the responsibility still falls upon Mr McPartlin and the collisions (including one that was head-on) put a number of other road-users (including a child and Mr McPartlin’s own mother) at significant risk.
This number of aggravating factors would in my experience be used to justify the longer duration of disqualification and a fine that was closer to being in-line with the guidance. Perhaps DJ Barnes demonstrated a degree of empathy given Mr McPartlin’s well-documented personal problems. It is possible she deemed the post-court consequences more damaging and a greater punishment than any penalty she could impose. It can be assumed that his demeanour and display of remorse and regret helped direct her discretion.
Regardless of the reasoning behind DJ Barnes’ penalty, I suspect there will be many conflicting views as to whether this sentence was lenient or not.
Author, Neil Sargeant is a Road Traffic specialist within the Duncan Lewis Crime Department, based in Harrow.
Neil has specialised in Road Traffic Law since 2008, establishing close working relationships with some of the country’s leading experts in this field and maintaining an outstanding record of client acquittals. His specialist expertise stretches across all road traffic law, but is most extensive in:
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