Ant McPartlin, the television presenter, has been ordered to pay what is believed to be Britain’s biggest ever drink-drive fine after he was caught more than double the legal limit in a car crash.
The 42-year-old, who the court heard earns £130,000 a week, was fined £86,000 after pleading guilty to drink driving and banned from the road for 20 months. Outside court, he said he is “truly sorry for what happened “.
McPartlin was involved in a collision with two other vehicles while driving his Mini in Richmond, south-west London, with his mother as passenger on a Sunday afternoon. He had been seeking help for “alcohol and emotional issues” at the time.
In a statement to police, he apologised for his actions, which he said have left him “ashamed and mortified”. The court heard he hopes he “might be forgiven by all the people he feels he has let down so terribly”.
Wearing a black three-piece suit, white shirt and black tie, McPartlin stood in the glass dock at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court on Monday afternoon when he pleaded guilty to a single charge of drink-driving.
The charge states he had 75 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath – the legal limit is 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of breath.
McPartlin, who lives in Chiswick, west London, was arrested at around 4pm on Sunday, March 18 after failing a roadside breathalyser test following the collision between the Mini he was driving and two other cars.
The Metropolitan Police previously confirmed that several people were treated at the scene for minor injuries. A child passenger from one of the cars was taken to hospital to be checked as a precaution.
McPartlin – one half of entertainment duo Ant and Dec – was charged by post three days after the crash, before stepping back from his TV commitments and returning to rehab.
He faced a scrum of photographers and reporters as he walked up the steps at the main court entrance, which was guarded by seven police officers.
Video: Ant McPartlin mobbed by photographers at court
‘You’re no longer a man of good character’ – judge
District Judge Barbara Barnes told McPartlin “you are a well-known and successful entertainer”, whose weekly income is around £130,000 a week.
Sentencing him, she said: “At the time when it happened you were struggling with various personal problems and also alcohol issues for some months.
“This incident happened, sadly, when it seems you suffered a brief relapse.”
The judge described McPartlin’s previous “exemplary character” adding: “I think it will have quite an impact on you to know you’re no longer a man of good character.”
Fining him, she said: “Because of the seriousness of this offence, the financial pain must be imposed on you as on any other offender.”
McPartlin was also told to pay £255 in costs. In December 2016, footballer Yaya Toure was given what was believed to be the biggest ever fine for drink-driving. He was told to pay £54,000 – one week’s wages – and banned from driving for 18 months.
‘Ashamed and mortified’: Statement to police
The court heard that in a statement to police McPartlin said: “I am very sorry I did this. I am ashamed and mortified that this happened.
“I accept full culpability for this and wish to apologise to all those concerned.”
McPartlin’s barrister Liam Walker said: “Through me, Mr McPartlin wishes to express both sorrow and regret over his actions,” Mr Walker said.
“He is sorry, but not sorry because he is here. He knows it is right that he’s here and he hopes that which has led him here will eventually help him.
“But for good fortune the consequences could have been worse. He feels the guilt that is reflected in his plea.”
Mr Walker spoke of McPartlin’s “exemplary” character and charitable work, especially focusing on organisations that help children.
“Mr McPartlin is lucky to have both family and long-time friends to support him,” he added.
Star seeking help for ‘alcohol and emotional issues’
Mr Walker said his client had been seeking help for “alcohol and emotional issues” at the time of the crash, adding that his mother was in the car with him.
He told the district judge the incident was down to “a brief relapse unbeknownst to his passenger”.
“Anthony McPartlin is sorry and is doing everything he can to ensure this never happens again,” Mr Walker said.
“He hopes that in time he can make himself better and that he might be forgiven by all of the many people he knows and he feels he has let down terribly.”
McPartlin lost control on sharp bend and ended up on wrong side of road
Prosecutor Katie Sinnett-Jones told the court the incident happened at around 3.50pm on March 18 on Lower Richmond Road.
She said Mr McPartlin was driving around a “sharp bend and lost control” at which point he ended up on the wrong side of the road.
He collided with another Mini Cooper car before driving “straight into the front of an oncoming car”.
McPartlin’s vehicle “came to a halt and was no longer driveable due to the damage caused” she said. Members of the public called the police.
The driver of the Mini car said afterwards, the court heard, that they thought they would die in the collision.
He said, in a statement read by Ms Sinnett-Jones: “Myself and my family were in deep shock as we believed we could have died as as a result of Mr McPartlin’s reckless driving.”
McPartlin steps back from TV commitments
After he was charged, ITV announced the Saturday Night Takeaway host would step back from his TV commitments.
McPartlin’s co-presenter, Declan Donnelly, hosted the final two episodes of the show on his own.
He appeared alongside Donnelly on TV screens over the weekend as Britain’s Got Talent aired its pre-recorded audition shows.
Dec to present Britain’s Got Talent live shows solo
Declan Donnelly will present Britain’s Got Talent live shows solo. ITV confirmed that the presenter, 42, will continue without on-screen partner Ant McPartlin.
McPartlin featured in the show’s audition stages, which began at the weekend and were recorded in January.
The move was confirmed by ITV, which sent McPartlin “all our love” and added they knew Donnelly will do a “brilliant job”.
“Dec will be hosting the live shows which for the first time ever are coming from the Hammersmith Apollo while Ant steps down from his TV commitments for now,” they added.
The announcement came days after Dec presented the finale of Saturday Night Takeaway alone, which he said had been “tinged with sadness” due to the absence of his TV partner of almost 30 years.
From Byker Grove to OBE: Saturday night TV star’s story through the years
Simon Cowell stands by McPartlin: ‘He’s manned up’
Simon Cowell has publicly supported Ant McPartlin, saying he has “manned up” by checking himself into rehab.
“We’ve known each other a long time, and you stand by the people you work with over the years, for the obvious reasons,” Cowell told The Sun. “We always stand by our friends. We’re all human.
“The most important thing is he’s manned up, he’s going to get himself back together. And the show goes on, it’s as simple as that.”
Cowell, who returns as a judge on the ITV show, said Ant was welcome to return fully in 2019 after his stint in rehab.
“People, for whatever reason, they get into a rut and at times like this you stand by your mates. It’s always been that way,” he said.