September 14, 2010 – British pop star George Michael was sentenced to eight weeks in jail by a court on Tuesday after he admitted driving under the influence of cannabis when he crashed his car into a shop.
The 47-year-old “Freedom” and “Careless Whisper” singer was arrested after his Range Rover smashed into a photography shop in north London in the early hours of July 4, the latest in a long line of clashes with the law.
Michael, who was charged under his real name Georgios Panayiotou, sighed as the sentence was announced and a fan sobbed in the public gallery of Highbury Magistrates Court in London as he was taken to the cells.
“It does not appear that you took proper steps to deal with what is clearly an addiction to cannabis. That’s a mistake which puts you and, on this occasion, the public at risk,” Judge John Perkins said.
He said a jail term was inevitable because Michael had a conviction for driving while unfit dating back to 2006, adding that this time he had taken a “dangerous and unpredictable mix” of prescription drugs and cannabis.
“I accept entirely that you have shown remorse for the offence, that you are ashamed of it, that you admitted it,” Perkins said, but added that it was with “regret” that he could not find any mitigation against a prison sentence.
Perkins said Michael would serve four weeks in prison and after that he would be released and the remainder of the term would be spent under strict conditions.
The court also slapped Michael with a five-year driving ban and a fine of 1,250 pounds (1,500 euros, 1,930 dollars).
Michael had admitted the driving offence at an earlier hearing in August. He also pleaded guilty to possessing cannabis cigarettes.
The singer was found by police slumped at the wheel of his Range Rover with the engine still running after the crash in July. Officers roused him and said he appeared “spaced out.”
The star’s lawyer, Mukul Chawla, said Michael had personally repaid the cost of the damage to the owner shop.
“The only thing that Mr Michael has specifically asked his lawyers to address to the court is his profound shame and horror of having repeated the conduct of 2006,” Chawla told the court.
Michael arrived at the court on Tuesday wearing dark glasses and waving to fans, some of whom screamed his name and tried to burst through police barriers to reach him.
He spoke only to confirm his name and address and to say he wished to be addressed by his stage name in court.
The singer — who first found fame in 1980s pop group Wham! and has gone on to sell more than 100 million records worldwide — has fought a long battle with drugs.
In June 2007, Michael was given a two-year driving ban after pleading guilty to driving while unfit the previous October, when he was found collapsed in his Mercedes.
On that occasion, he claimed he was tired and had been taking prescription drugs.
In 1998 he was fined after making lewd advances to an undercover male police officer in a public toilet in Beverly Hills, California — an incident he poked fun at in the video for his hit “Outside.”