Troubled Gascoigne walks free on drink charge

Former England footballer Paul Gascoigne yesterday avoided an immediate jail term for driving while more than four times the legal alcohol limit.

The troubled 43-year-old ex-midfielder was given an eight-week sentence, suspended for a year, when he appeared at Newcastle Magistrates' Court.

However, he also faces a similar charge before a court in North Yorkshire.

Following the hearing, his lawyer, Stephen Andrews, said his client was relieved and that it was a "good result".

Gascoigne was arrested in the city after police saw him driving an MG erratically.

He was found to have 142mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath – the legal limit is 35mg – when he was tested in the early hours of October 8.

He admitted drink-driving at a hearing in October. On that occasion, District Judge Stephen Earl told him that 12 weeks in jail was a possibility, given the circumstances.

Gascoigne was due to be sentenced last month but failed to appear as he had checked himself into a rehab clinic on the south coast.

Yesterday, Judge Earl said the seriousness of the offence crossed the custody threshold, but he passed a suspended sentence after hearing Gascoigne was responding well to treatment at the Providence Project clinic.

"You are not heavily convicted and you have nothing currently on your record of a similar nature," he said.

But yesterday's court appearance does not signal the end of Gascoigne's troubles.

A separate drink-drive charge, which he denies, will be heard next week at Northallerton Magistrates' Court.

Gascoigne looked gaunt and worried during yesterday's 15-minute hearing, but relaxed visibly when Mr Andrews explained to him that he would not be going to jail.

The court was told Gascoigne was undergoing a 12-week anti-drink programme in Dorset and he has seven weeks and five days more to complete.

He attends Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings in the evenings and is back at the centre by 9.30pm.

The former player gave his father's address in Dunston, Gateshead, when asked by the court clerk, but the district judge was told he plans to move permanently to the south coast.

Mr Andrews said: "The long-term plan is to find him accommodation in that area.

"The talk now is of an extensive and elongated period of support while not actually under the roof of the Providence Project, but certainly within easy reach, given the continued support they would propose to offer."

He said the bosses at the rehabilitation clinic had noticed a "massive shift" in Gascoigne's attitude towards treatment.

"Previously, it has been on his terms," he told the court.

"He's gone in, he has used it as he saw fit and of course relapsed because he has not done the full programme. This time it has been on their terms."

Gascoigne, so thin that his gold watch was loose on his wrist, appeared nervous as the judge read a pre-sentence report.

Judge Earl believed a 12-week sentence, with a third off as credit for a guilty plea, was appropriate. And he suspended the sentence in recognition of his early progress in rehab. He warned the player that if he reoffends in the next 12 months, the suspended eight-week jail term will be triggered.

Gascoigne, who played for Newcastle United, Spurs, Lazio, Rangers, Middlesbrough and Everton, was ordered to pay 85 costs, and will be subject to a 12-month supervision order.

He must also undertake a six-month drink programme after rehab.

He was also banned from driving for three years and given an alcohol treatment order.

Gascoigne, who was dressed in a pinstripe suit, white shirt and no tie, smiled when the judge, talking hypothetically about the player attempting to drive while banned, said: "He's not a man who can easily pass off without notice, I suspect."

Judge Earl told Gascoigne: "I hope not to see you again."

Ex-wife in plea against violence

PAUL GASCOIGNE'S former wife Sheryl yesterday accused the police of failing to support families who have lost loved ones to domestic violence.

Mrs Gascoigne, who suffered abuse at the hands of her former husband, spoke as she and other campaigners handed in an 8,000-signature petition at 10 Downing Street calling for more to be done.

The petition was sparked by an increase in the domestic violence murder rate and campaigners fear spending cuts will make matters worse.

They want domestic violence services preserved.

Yesterday's petition was instigated by cosmetics company Avon and Refuge, a charity opposed to domestic violence.