Paul Merson handed road ban

 

Ex-England footballer Paul Merson has been given a 14-month driving ban after a court heard how he crashed his Mercedes into a 38-tonne truck while over the legal alcohol limit.

Leamington Spa Magistrates' Court was told that the former Arsenal and Aston Villa star, who pleaded guilty to drink-driving, fell asleep at the wheel on the M40.

Merson, who suffered a head injury in the accident last October, was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay £105 in costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

Magistrates heard that the Sky Sports pundit was driving to his home in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, after having "a few drinks" at a charity event in London.

Merson's Mercedes ML350 struck the rear of the heavy goods vehicle, damaging its rear lights and under-run bars, at about 3.15am on October 12.

Prosecutor Philippa Cowley said Merson, who was among several people who called the police, failed a roadside breath-test and was later found to have 124mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood - the legal limit is 80mg.

Merson, 43, was standing on the hard shoulder when two police constables arrived at the scene, said Ms Cowley.

"It was clear that he had got a head injury and he was very frank with the police," the lawyer told the court.

"He said that he had fallen asleep and had been at a charity do for children and had had a few drinks."

Merson, whose playing career included spells at Middlesbrough, Portsmouth and Walsall, was taken to hospital after the crash near Warwick.

Defence lawyer Steven Masih handed several references to the court on Merson's behalf and said his client had planned to stay at a hotel where his car was parked, but no rooms were available and he decided to drive home.

Offering mitigation for the offence, Mr Masih told the bench: "There is no-one more disappointed with what took place on the 12th of October than Mr Merson.

"When the police arrived he was very frank and very forthcoming with the officers - he was honest with them and told them exactly what had happened."

Merson, a father of five, had woken up at 6am on October 12 and had been busy during the morning before driving to London.

Accepting that the ex-footballer made a grave error of judgment, Mr Masih continued: "He decided it might be safe for him to drive home because he didn't feel particularly drunk.

"He's deeply remorseful and deeply regretful about this."

PA

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