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Darron Gibson spared jail for drink driving crash

Footballer Darron Gibson wept yesterday as he was spared jail despite admitting a second serious drink-driving offence.

The ex-Republic of Ireland midfielder, who was born in Londonderry, had a number of "significant psychological issues", a judge said.

South Tyneside Magistrates' Court heard how Gibson has missed out on hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost bonuses after his contract with Sunderland was terminated in March following the incident.

He smashed his Mercedes 4x4 into a taxi and five parked cars on March 17 as he drove from his flat in Durham to a physio session at the club, finally crashing into a garden wall.

Gibson wept during the hearing where it was said he had used sleeping tablets and drunk from a litre bottle of vodka the night before.

A roadside test recorded him having 105mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath - reduced at the police station to 95mg - when the legal limit is 35mg.

Gibson had already been banned from driving in 2015 when his car hit three cyclists while he was over the limit.

The 30-year-old, who played for Manchester United, Everton and Sunderland, knocked a taxi's wing mirror off in West Boldon in the latest incident, but carried on and smashed into parked cars in Fulwell, Sunderland. One stationary car ended up 20 metres from where it had been parked, said Sue Baker, prosecuting.

Magistrates at the previous hearing indicated Gibson might be jailed, but District Judge Roger Elsey sentenced him to a two-year community order with 250 hours of unpaid work, including 30 days of rehabilitation activity.

Gibson must also pay one of the drivers £800 compensation, costs and a victim surcharge of £85 each and was banned from driving for 40 months.

Judge Elsey said: "You were clearly not in control of your vehicle and you put pedestrians and other drivers at risk of injury or worse."

But the judge did not jail him, saying: "You have a number of significant psychological issues for which it now appears you are receiving appropriate treatment.

"The community is best protected if the causes of your binge drinking are removed and that requires extensive work with a number of agencies."

Henry Blackshaw, defending, said Gibson had undergone counselling with a specialist from the Priory clinic and had seen a psychiatrist.

He said Gibson felt genuine remorse for the other drivers, as well as for his family. His wife Danielle, mother and her partner were in court with him.

The lawyer told the court Gibson had "emotional baggage", saying he had a difficult upbringing which involved being bullied growing up in Londonderry, before he moved to Manchester United's academy aged 15.

He suffered a serious muscle injury on New Year's Day and was out of Sunderland's first team at the time of the crash.

He was struggling to sleep and took sleeping tablets despite being warned about them, particularly with regard to mixing them with alcohol.

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