Former footballer Leon McKenzie jailed for attempting to dodge driving ban

 

Former Norwich City striker Leon McKenzie has been jailed for sending bogus letters to the police in a bid to avoid a driving ban.

The 33-year-old, of Northampton, was sentenced to six months in prison after admitting sending the letters to Northamptonshire Police in an attempt to avoid speeding convictions.

Sentencing the former Premiership footballer at Northampton Crown Court today, Judge Richard Bray said: "A custodial sentence is necessary for this type of offence which strikes right at the heart of justice.

"It would completely send out the wrong message if I did not hand out a custodial sentence."

McKenzie, who retired from professional football in December, was also handed a 18-month driving ban.

McKenzie admitted six charges of perverting the course of justice at a hearing earlier this year after sending letters to Northamptonshire Police to avoid six speeding fines between February 2008 and December 2009.

The letters, purporting to be from a fictional garage in London, claimed McKenzie's car was off the road.

In mitigation, Andrew McGee, defending, told the court today that the former striker, who started his career with Crystal Palace and had played for Northampton and Norwich, was known to be a person of good character who had, at the time of the offence, been suffering from depression, resulting in him attempting to take his own life at the end of 2009.

Acting as a character witness today, the father-of-four's uncle, Duke McKenzie, a former championship boxer, told the court he too had suffered from depression.

"People think we live these glamorous lifestyles but we're under the same pressures.

"It mounts up if things are not going your way."

Clarke Carlisle, chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association, said McKenzie's story had resulted in him seeking help for his own depression.

Carlisle, who is on loan to Northampton Town from Burnley, said he and McKenzie had been working with other players who had since come forward with depression through the PFA.

Sentencing McKenzie, who wore a grey suit, pinstripe shirt and silver tie, Judge Richard Bray gave the former footballer credit for his early guilty plea but said a custodial sentence was inevitable.

As family and friends sobbed in the public gallery, Mr Bray said that, although he was aware McKenzie had suffered from depression, he had committed "professional fraud".

"You were prepared to pretend that your car was in a garage that didn't exist.

"I can't excuse the offences.

"A custodial sentence is necessary for this type of offence which strikes right at the heart of justice.

"It would completely send out the wrong message if I did not hand out a custodial sentence."

PA

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