Driving ban for drink-driving football star

Photo courtesy of West Midlands Police, Flickr CC http://bit.ly/1ilCL0V

Driving ban for drink-driving football star

Everton footballer Darron Gibson was sentenced this week for drink-driving and hitting a group of cyclists then fleeing the scene. CTC argues he should have been charged with dangerous driving.

Driving the morning after a night of heavy drinking, ploughing into a group of cyclists, then fleeing the scene - that’s just ‘careless’ according to the Crown Prosecution Service. Why the Everton footballer, Darron Gibson, who committed these offences was not charged with dangerous driving is baffling.

The group of cyclists Gibson hit were fixing a broken chain at the side of the road when he drove into them. One cyclist was directly hit by the car and suffered cuts to his legs, elbow and hand. His £4,500 carbon composite bike was written off. Gibson sped away from the scene before colliding with a petrol pump and getting out of the car with no shoes on.

In Court this week, his Defence said the footballer had gone out with team mates to celebrate a birthday the night before and had drunk mainly lager and ‘one or two vodkas’, on top of painkillers he was taking following an operation. The alcohol level in his blood was found to be 57mg per 100ml – the legal limit is 35 on the morning on the incident.

Gibson's sentence

Gibson was banned from driving after he pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention, driving with excess alcohol and failing to stop.

If Gibson had stolen the cyclists’ bikes rather than running them over, they would be entitled to more rights. This crazy situation could change if the government's recently announced proposals to broaden the definition of victim come into force.

Rhia Favero, CTC's Road Justice Campaign Coordinator

In addition to the ban, Gibson was ordered to pay £4,500 compensation for the damaged bike and £1,000 to the injured cyclist, plus £100 each to the other two cyclists and £295 court costs. That's pocket change to Gibson, who earns about £50,000 per week, and could be comparable to what it will cost him to repair the damage to his car.

He must also complete 200 hours of community service. His 20-month ban could be reduced by five months if he completes a drink-driving awareness course.

Not all drivers who commit the types of offences Gibson did have their licences taken away, so it's reassuring to see the judge in this case used his power to ban Gibson from driving. It's not surprising though, given the number and severity of the offences he committed.

Road crash victims’ rights

Because Gibson was only charged with driving without due care, not dangerous driving, his victims are not entitled to victim support or information about the criminal case. This is because the current definition of victim in the Victims' Code – which defines the rights of victims of crime – doesn't include victims of careless or drink driving.

If Gibson had stolen the cyclists’ bikes rather than running them over, they would be entitled to more rights. This crazy situation could change if the government's recently announced proposals to broaden the definition of victim come into force.

Nearly 2000 CTC supporters emailed the Ministry of Justice in just three days to back the Government’s proposals to include victims of summary motoring offences (e.g. careless driving) in the Victims’ Code.

Dwindling police numbers

It’s already difficult to get the police to charge drivers who endanger cyclists, getting them to charge drivers with dangerous driving is even harder. It’s going to get more difficult once the next round of deep cuts to policing takes effect. At least 22,000 police jobs could be lost, which would leave the public protected by the lowest number of officers since the 1970s.

Roads policing has borne the brunt of cuts in recent years – traffic police numbers dropped by 37% from 2002/3 to 2013/14 whilst overall police numbers reduced by about 3.5%. It will be no surprise if traffic police are expected to cut back even more, having a further detrimental effect on their ability to police the roads and investigate cases. In the not too distant future the police might not even attempt to investigate cases of careless driving, whether they involve celebrity footballers or not.

* This article was amended on 07/09/2015 to change Darron Gibson's earnings from £153,846 per week to around £50,000 per week.

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