Keep the faith, George – you'll have your freedom in eight weeks

Former Wham! star jailed for crashing his car while under the influence of cannabis
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The Independent Online

The pop star George Michael will wake up this morning to a host of pun-laden headlines borrowing heavily from his back catalogue of hits, but also to the more serious matter of an eight-week prison sentence after he admitted crashing his Range Rover while high on drugs.

The former Wham! singer had previously admitted driving under the influence of cannabis after being found slumped unconscious in his vehicle, having crashed it into a north London branch of Snappy Snaps. Yesterday, he was told he would spend four weeks in prison and four on licence.

The 47-year-old sighed as the judge passed sentence. One fan sobbed in the public gallery of Highbury Corner magistrates' court as Michael was led to the cells.

It is the latest in a list of offences committed by the singer, who is famous for a host of No 1 singles including "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" and "Careless Whisper" (prime candidates to become Lock Me Up Before You Go-Go and Careless Spliffter in today's tabloids).

Most memorably, in 1998, he was arrested in Beverly Hills after "engaging in a lewd act" in a public toilet with an undercover police officer.

In 2006 and 2008, he was cautioned for possession of cannabis. In 2007, he pleaded guilty to driving while unfit through drugs. Then, he was banned from driving for two years and sentenced to 100 hours of community service. But yesterday, he was imprisoned.

The court heard that Michael – whose real name is Georgios Panayiotou – was arrested in Hampstead shortly before 4am on 4 July this year when two police officers found him apparently unconscious in his grey Range Rover. After being roused by an officer banging on his window, Michael got out of the car and was said to be sweating, breathing heavily, and had to be held up. When told he had crashed into a shop, he said: "No I didn't. I didn't crash into anything."

He was found in possession of two cannabis cigarettes. Tests later showed he was unfit to drive through drugs.

Michael admitted smoking a "small quantity" of cannabis at about 10pm the previous evening and said he also took a newly prescribed sedative to help him to sleep.

District Judge John Perkins told the singer: "It does not appear that you took proper steps to deal with what is clearly an addiction to cannabis. That's a mistake which puts you and, on this occasion, the public, at risk."

The District Judge said he took into account that Michael had checked into a clinic after the crash to seek help for anxiety, depression and insomnia, which had led him to depend on prescription drugs.

"I accept entirely that you have shown remorse for the offence, that you are ashamed of it, that you admitted it," he said, but added that a jail term was inevitable because of Michael's previous conviction. In the public gallery, Michael's long-term partner, Kenny Goss, threw his head into his hands. The singer was also banned from driving for five years and was ordered to pay a £1,250 fine, £100 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

Mukul Chawla, QC, mitigating, said that Michael personally repaid the cost of the damage to the shop owner and that he was ashamed and horrified at "having repeated the conduct of 2007".

Singing like jailbirds...

Johnny Cash

Champion of American jailbirds, playing some of the most famous concerts of all time in Folsom and San Quentin prisons. In his song "Man in Black", he sang of his trademark attire: "I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime, but is there because he's a victim of the times." Cash himself spent only a few days behind bars: three for smuggling amphetamines, as well as several other minor overnight stays, notably for trespassing on to private land to pick flowers.

Lindsay Lohan

Earlier this year, the 24-year-old Hollywood actress was jailed for 90 days after violating her probation on a 2007 drink-driving charge. Lohan served less than two weeks in an all-female jail in Los Angeles after spending time on probation, having pleaded guilty to drug charges and no-contest to three driving charges.

George Best

Almost as famous for the problems which blighted his personal life as for being – arguably – the greatest footballer of his generation, George Best spent Christmas 1984 behind bars after a conviction for drink-driving offences.

Paris Hilton

The heiress, singer and reality TV star spent three days of a 45-day sentence in prison in 2007 after violating probation on a drink-driving conviction. Released on medical grounds, she was kept under house arrest.