Best banned after admitting drink-driving

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George Best was today banned from driving for 20 months and fined £1,500 after pleading guilty to drink-driving.

The 57-year-old former footballer was told by magistrates at Wimbledon in south-west London that he had been irresponsible. They heard that he had driven after a row in a restaurant with his son Calum.

Best had been trying to drive himself to a health farm having realised that he needed to resolve his problems, the court was told.

When police stopped him, he was nearly two and a half times the limit.

Magistrate Sally Marley told Best: "We have taken into account your guilty plea but you were nearly two and a half times the legal limit and you were very close to being given a community penalty. "

Best was also ordered to pay £55 prosecution costs and agreed to sign up for a course which will mean his 20-month ban could be reduced.

The court was told that Best faced three charges but two which referred to driving without insurance or a licence were withdrawn.

Prosecutor Moira MacDaid said Best had been stopped on the A3 in New Malden on 30 January at 12.20am. A police car had moved to overtake a Mini Cooper and the car braked suddenly and pulled over to the left.

She said: "They stopped it and spoke to the driver, who gave his name as George Best. He smelt of alcohol. Police asked him if he had been drinking and he said yes."

She said Best failed a roadside breath test and was taken to Wimbledon police station where he was tested again and registered 85 micrograms in 100 millilitres of breath when the legal limit is 35.

Best's solicitor Pippa McAtasney said: "As you might appreciate, this is not easy for any individual facing these allegations. It is humiliating and it is shaming and for Mr Best any fall from grace attracts huge attention. That makes it doubly difficult for him to bear and I ask you to take that into account.

"This defendant's alcoholism has been widely reported. Alcohol is a disease in my submission, he is struggling with it and at times has had it under control. They rarely recover without support.

"He was doing well, unfortunately he slipped back, that is well documented in the press, and he lost the support of his wife It is no secret they are estranged and divorce proceedings are pending.

"It is all very painful for this defendant and it is under that background that he came to drink on this occasion. It is very difficult for a man in his position with these sort of pressures to resist drinking."

Miss McAtasney said on the night he was caught Best had been to a restaurant to meet his son.

She said: "The evening went badly, they ended up arguing and it clearly upset Mr Best a great deal. Things were said that struck a raw nerve and he realised at that point he had to get himself sorted out and couldn't continue sliding as he was.

"He had earlier booked himself into a hotel because he had no intention of driving but because of what had been said he needed to be in a therapeutic environment. He wanted to get himself to a health farm in Liphook. He couldn't get a taxi and it is against that background that he stupidly drove his car.

"He had no intention of driving it until the argument and the upset. He was stopped because of the car he was driving. It bears a personalised plate and it must have stuck out like a sore thumb.

"It was almost an invitation to be stopped and he was."

According to the charge, the black Mini had the registration G18 EST.

She added: "It is also an indication he was not thinking clearly because that number plate would have attracted attention on that night."