Sentencing threat to George Michael gig

LORNA MARSH Superstar George Michael's Norwich gig still hangs in the balance while he faces the threat of jail for drug driving after being ordered to appear for sentence four days before he takes the stage.


Superstar George Michael's Norwich gig still hangs in the balance while he faces the threat of jail for drug driving after being ordered to appear for sentence four days before he takes the stage.

The 43-year-old was not in court yesterday when Brent magistrates in north London heard he had a cocktail of drugs in his system including GHB and cannabis.

He was found slumped at the wheel of his Mercedes at traffic lights in Cricklewood, north London, in October and later admitted driving while unfit under the influence of drugs.

The singer argues prescription medication caused his semi-consciousness and last night said he was delighted at the way his court case is being handled.

In a statement released last night, the singer said: “I have accepted throughout this affair that I was not in a fit state to have been driving a motor vehicle in the early hours of October 1 2006 and accordingly pleaded guilty to the charge of driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs before Brent Magistrates' Court on May 8 2007.

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“I am delighted that at today's hearing the court accepted that the proper approach to my case is that which I have always maintained, in that I was unfit through a combination of tiredness and prescribed drugs, and that I will be

sentenced on this basis.”

Michael concluded by saying he is “really looking forward” to playing at Wembley Stadium on June 9 and 10 and all his shows beforehand and afterwards.

However, legal arguments ended yesterday with defence barrister Michael Grieve conceding his level of “unfitness” when he was found was high and that the sentence should be considered on that alone, not what caused it.

And while District Judge Katherine Marshall gave no clear indication of the sentence likely to be imposed, the maximum tariff for the offence is six months in jail.

Sentencing has been put back to 8 June - four days before the singer's Carrow Road concert.

But promoters insisted the star would be able to make the gig and the one at Wembley the day after sentencing, claiming lawyers would resolve any issues.

“George is definitely coming and he is very much looking forward to it,” a spokesman for Marshall Arts said.

Prosecutor Andrew Torrington told magistrates that tests showed a therapeutic quantity of an anti-depressant in the singer's system as well as class C dance club drug GHB, but the effects of that can also be created by prescribed medication.

Cannabis was also found in his blood, but the prosecution did not maintain that this was the cause of his intoxication.

Mr Grieve claimed a sleeping drug was the most likely explanation for his condition.

He also told the court it was common for traces of GHB to be found in the blood even if the drug had not been taken.

But he agreed the issue at stake was not the drug involved, but the state Mr Michael was in when he was discovered.

Mr Grieve said: “It is the defendant's case that his condition was caused by taking prescribed drugs.”

But he told District Judge Katherine Marshall: “One looks at the unfitness, not the cause of it. Whatever the level is, that's all you need to look at.”

District Judge Marshall adjourned sentence until June 8. The case was previously adjourned to hear from expert witnesses but the judge said that was now unnecessary.

“It is clear that it is not necessary for me to go any further in this expert evidence,” she said. “I will sentence on the basis that counsel has asked me to.”

At a court appearance earlier this month, the former Wham! frontman addressed District Judge Katherine Marshall directly, saying: “I did something very stupid and I am very ashamed since doing it.

“I'm not used to defending myself in a position where I am ashamed of something.”

He added: “I really have been very distressed by this whole thing. I am perfectly aware that I did something very wrong and got into my car when I was unfit to drive.”

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