Former Liverpool striker Dean Saunders has been sentenced to serve 10 weeks in custody by Chester Magistrates Court.
Saunders appeared before the Court for an offence of refusing to provide a specimen of breath for analysis. This offence exists where an individual is suspected of drink driving and fails or refuses to give a breath specimen. The penalties are equal to drink driving sentences in general terms.
Whether this is a fair sentence is impossible to know without all of the facts of Saunders’ case. The Sentencing Guidelines indicate that a 12 week custodial sentence is the starting point for offences where there is evidence of both a high level of impairment and a deliberate refusal to provide a specimen. The Prosecution stated in Court that Saunders had been discovered swerving across a road and almost causing an accident as he left Chester Races, and had refused to cooperate with a breath test three times before being charged with the offence. The District Judge, when sentencing, called Saunders ‘arrogant’.
Once the starting point has been determined, any discount for an early guilty plea is deducted by the Court. If the sentence is custody, consideration is then given to whether the sentence should be served immediately or suspended for a set period of time, on the basis that a number of other requirements are completed within that period. Immediate custody should be a last resort.
Saunders’ representative immediately confirmed that the sentence would be appealed and applied for bail until the appeal is determined. This application was refused. Mr Saunders will now need to lodge an appeal with the local Crown Court, where it will be determined by a Judge and two Magistrates. His sentence could go up as well as down. If he opts not to appeal, Saunders will serve five weeks in prison and five weeks in the community on licence, before completing a period of ‘post sentence supervision’ with the Probation Service.
Blog by Sophie Cohen, Solicitor