Dean Saunders wins appeal to overturn jail sentence

Dean Saunders Image copyright Peter Powell/PA Wire
Image caption Ex-Premier League footballer Dean Saunders outside Chester Magistrates' Court

Ex-Liverpool striker Dean Saunders has won his appeal against a jail sentence for failing to take a breath test.

Saunders, 55, was jailed for 10 weeks by District Judge Nicholas Sanders when he appeared at Chester Magistrates' Court on 28 August.

He admitting failing to comply with a roadside breath test and failing to provide a breath specimen.

Judge Steven Everett has quashed the immediate jail term and instead suspended the sentence for 18 months.

Saunders also played for Aston Villa, Derby County, and Nottingham Forest and won 75 caps for Wales.

Judge Everett, the Honorary Recorder of Chester Crown Court, also ordered Saunders to do 200 hours of unpaid work in the community. His 30-month road ban remains.

'Laughing stock'

Saunders failed to comply with a roadside breath test when he was stopped in an Audi A8 by a police patrol in Chester city centre on May 10 after spending a day at the races.

He spent just one day in custody and was given bail after his lawyers launched an appeal against his jail sentence.

The court was shown footage from a police body-cam taken in the custody suite at Blacon police station.

For several minutes Saunders is repeatedly offered the chance to provide a breath specimen but he tells police he wants to wait for the duty solicitor.

After being told that is not an option he continues to question the instruction and is told that he will be prosecuted for failing to provide a specimen.

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Media captionDean Saunders was filmed by an officer's body camera after his Audi was stopped

Alistair Webster QC, defending, told the court the immediate prison sentence was "disproportionate".

He said the footage which was issued to the media by the police and had left his client "humiliated".

"He rapidly went from an icon to a laughing stock," the barrister said.

Mr Webster added: "He's not been able to watch (the footage) before because he feels overwhelming humiliation by everything that happened."

Judge Everett said he believed Saunders "had a lot to drink" and "prevaricated" over taking a breath test so the reading would be lower.

The judge said he took "entirely wrong approach" at the magistrates' court in telling probation officers he could not do work in the community because of his job as a TV pundit.

The court heard Saunders was now willing to carry out community service and the only other realistic option was serving a sentence in jail.

Judge Everett said the district judge had been right to jail Saunders but, because of his previous good character and the prospect of rehabilitation, he could now suspend the sentence.

"The sheer shame is going to live with you for the rest of your life," he added.

"You should literally hang your head in shame by what you did.

"I suggest you take the opportunity to tell others that it really isn't worth it. Drink-driving is a terrible thing."

In a statement released by the League Managers Association, Saunders said: "I want to apologise to the court, my family and all of the people I have let down as a result of my actions.

"I made a terrible error of judgment for which I have been rightly punished, and I wholeheartedly regret that it happened.

"I accept that I have been given an opportunity by the court and I hope that people can learn from my experience. The message is a simple one - don't ever drink and drive."

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