Former Newcastle United coach Dean Saunders jailed for failing to give breath samples after drink-drive arrest

Former Newcastle United Dean Saunders has been jailed for 10 weeks for failing to provide a breath specimen after being arrested on suspicion of drink-driving.

Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 12:22 pm
Updated Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 4:37 pm
Ex-Premier League footballer Dean Saunders arrives at Chester Magistrates' Court to be sentenced after allegedly failing to comply with a roadside breath test and failing to provide a specimen. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.

The 55-year-old looked crestfallen when he realised he was going to jail as keys jangled and prison officers entered the dock at Chester Magistrates' Court.

Saunders - who was coach at Newcastle during Graeme Souness’ managerial reign from 2004-2006 and who played for Liverpool, Aston Villa and Derby County and was capped by Wales 75 times - refused to give a roadside breath test and, when taken to a police station, again failed to provide a breath sample, the court heard.

He pleaded not guilty at an earlier hearing but on Wednesday he admitted a charge of failing to comply with a roadside breath test and failing to provide a breath sample for analysis in Boughton, Chester, on May 10 this year.

Saunders was also banned from driving for 30 months and ordered to pay court costs of £620.

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He said he had been out at Chester Races and had drunk two pints.

His lawyer suggested this may have "interacted" with the medication he takes for injury to his knees and his inhaler for his asthma.

Police who arrested him said Saunders was slurring his speech and had to prop himself up against his Audi A8 car when he was asked to get out of the vehicle.

He was due to go on trial on Wednesday but indicated through his lawyers on Tuesday that he would not be contesting the charges and entered his guilty plea on Wednesday morning.

Passing sentence, District Judge Nicholas Sanders told him: "Throughout these proceedings you have shown yourself to be arrogant, thinking you are someone whose previous and current role in the public eye entitles you to be above the law.

"In fact the opposite is true - someone in the public eye should expect a deterrent sentence when they flout the law."

Judge Sanders continued: "Your driving came to the attention of police officers. You very nearly caused a serious accident.

"They were seriously concerned you may cause an accident. You were stopped and failed to provide a breath specimen and continued with this obstructive and evasive conduct at the police station.

"I do not accept you were confused. You consistently refused to co-operate."

He also told Saunders, a father-of-three, that, despite police body-cam footage and "overwhelming evidence", it was only on Tuesday that he had decided to admit his guilt and he had shown "no real remorse".

The court heard that, at around 12.45am on Friday May 10, a police patrol in Chester city centre spotted Saunders' car driving at speed and failing to give way at a roundabout, causing another vehicle to brake.

The car continued to drive erratically, braking and swerving to avoid hitting another vehicle, crossing over the white line in the road.

The officers decided to pull Saunders over and could smell "intoxicants".

Clare Bate, prosecuting, said: "The defendant was unsteady on his feet and, on exiting the vehicle, the defendant had to steady himself against the vehicle."

Saunders' speech was slurred and it was difficult for the officers to understand what he was saying, the court was told.

He was asked to provide a roadside breath test, refused three times and was then arrested.

However, at the police station in Blacon, Chester, despite numerous requests, he again refused to provide a specimen.

Saunders later claimed he believed, wrongly, that he was entitled to see his solicitor before giving a specimen.

The court heard that Saunders told a probation officer he had been at Chester Races all day, where he drank two pints, and then went for a meal back at a hotel, had another pint and then decided to drive home.

Probation officer Kim Graham told the court that, because Saunders' work as a pundit involves travelling all over the country to football matches, a sentence of carrying out unpaid work was not practical.

Outside court, Conor Johnstone, defending Saunders, said he would be appealing against the sentence as he believed it was excessive.

Mr Johnstone had told the court that Saunders believed he was entitled to see his solicitor before giving a specimen at the police station and was just mistaken about that.

He added: "He was taking medication at the time for his knees and back. I don't know whether that had any interaction with the alcohol he had taken that day.

"He realises the mistake he has made."

A court source said Saunders, like most defendants jailed at Chester Magistrates' Court, is likely to serve his sentence at HMP Altcourse, Liverpool.