For the second time in the space of a week, a famous name is under the legal spotlight after being charged with driving offences.
Last week, Sir Ranulph Fiennes was spared prison after being found guilty of causing extensive injuries to 39 year old Louis Castaldo in a car accident after falling asleep at the wheel. He was convicted of driving without due care and attention after he was described in court as ‘not a normal human being,’ something which angered his victim and other road safety campaigners. They argued that, no matter who the perpetrator might be, the law is the law.
Now singer George Michael could be jailed, after being let off the hook several times, if found guilty of driving while under the influence of drugs.
The former Wham! singer, whose real name is Georgios Panayiotou, has been in the news for his driving more than his singing in recent years, and the incident for which he finds himself in trouble this time is just the latest in a string of bizarre car accidents and other brushes with the law. Michael was apparently driving between his homes in Hampstead and Highgate to meet a friend when he lost control of his car and ploughed into the wall of a branch of photography shop Snappy Snaps on Rosslyn Hill at about 4am on 4th July this year.
When police arrived on the scene, they found Michael trying to engage reverse gear and looking wild-eyed and disorientated, as well as sweating profusely. He was slow to respond to police banging on the driver’s window of his Range Rover and denied all knowledge of the crash, giving his name only as ‘George.’ He was found to have been carrying two joints containing cannabis and to have traces of associated chemicals in his bloodstream.
This is not the first time the singer has been before magistrates after drug-related driving offences. In February 2006, he was charged with drug possession after he was found slumped in his car. Two months later, he hit three parked cars near his London home before crashing once again outside his home in May. In October 2006 he was found unconscious behind the wheel of his Mercedes in North London and in August 2009 he suffered a huge accident, from which he was lucky to escape unhurt, when he rammed into the back of a truck on the A34 near Newbury, in Berkshire, just after he had been given his license back.
The papers tend to treat Michael’s misdemeanours with a touch of amusement, quoting the truck driver into whom he crashed last year as saying that the singer, 47, was ‘quite merry’ and ‘away with the fairies.’ And yet if the star’s erratic driving had resulted in any serious injury or death, the tone of the reports would have doubtless darkened significantly.
It is to be hoped that Michael is subject to exactly the same rules as any normal civilian would be if they had such a large number of drug-fuelled accidents. Although he claims he has stopped driving, it is obvious that he is finding it difficult to stop smoking cannabis, which he openly admits to using. He is also currently taking prescription sedatives to help him sleep. He still holds his license, and surely it is only a matter of time before temptation gets the better of him. He claims he was popping out to see a friend on the spur of the moment before his July crash, even though he was clearly unfit to drive and it was 4am.
Rather like his namesake, fellow 80s pop star Boy George, who was made to sweep rubbish in New York City after being convicted of a different type of crime, the full weight of the law might help to make an example of Michael, as sad a twist in his long and colourful story as it would be.