Entertainment & Arts

George Michael's brushes with the legal system

George Michael
Image caption George Michael has been arrested several times for drug and motoring offences

George Michael has enjoyed a glittering music career which has lasted three decades. But during the past five years, his brushes with the legal system - rather than his music, have kept the singer's name in the papers.

On Tuesday, Michael was sentenced to eight weeks in jail for driving while under the influence of drugs, after the singer crashed his car into a London photo shop.

The 47-year-old, known for hits such as Careless Whisper, Jesus To A Child and Older, has made no secret of his long-time use of cannabis.

In 2006, he was arrested for possession of Class C drugs - the first of several drug-related arrests in the UK.

The singer - whose real name is Georgios Panayiotou - was found asleep at the wheel of his car in London.

'Terrible driver'

At the time, Michael admitted the incident had been "my own stupid fault" and said that police had acted properly.

Less than two months later, he was again questioned by police after apparently colliding with three parked cars near his home and driving off.

However, he laughed off the incident on Michael Parkinson's ITV talk show.

He admitted he was a "terrible driver" but insisted that he did not realise he had hit any vehicles.

"I got into my parked car which was on a very steep hill, took the handbrake off, tried to manoeuvre out and hit the car in front of me," he told the chat show host.

"I didn't know that it hit the car in front of it, and hit the car in front of that."

Image caption George Michael admitted he was addicted to prescription drugs

Police interviewed him under caution, but he was not charged over the collision.

But later that year, Michael was cautioned for possessing cannabis after it was reported to police that a car was causing an obstruction at traffic lights in Cricklewood.

After initially pleading innocent, he eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of driving while unfit through drugs, blaming "tiredness and prescribed drugs" for the offence.

The Crown Prosecution Service dropped a further charge of being in charge of a vehicle while unfit through drugs.

Speaking in court in May 2005, he told District Judge Katherine Marshall that he was "very ashamed" about his behaviour.

"I am perfectly aware that I did something very wrong and got into my car when I was unfit to drive.

"I was not in my normal physical state and I'm perfectly prepared to accept the correct punishment for that."

In June 2007, Michael was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and banned from driving for two years.

He also faced criticism from mental health charity Rethink for being filmed smoking cannabis during an episode of ITV's South Bank Show.

The charity expressed concerns that the drug can be a cause of serious mental health problems and labelled Michael "stupid" and "naive" for sending out the wrong message to young people.

The star, who was being filmed during his greatest hits tour, said at the time: "It's a great drug, but obviously it's not very healthy. You can't afford to smoke it if you've got anything to do. Anything at all would be foolish."

The former Wham! star added that it could be a "terrible, terrible drug" and that it could "chill you out to such a degree that you could lose your ambitions," but denied having a drug problem on camera.

Prescription drugs

In a later interview with Kirsty Young on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, he admitted his cannabis use had become a "problem".

He added: "Absolutely I would like to take less, no question."

But he added that he did not think his habit was "getting in the way of my life in any way".

In 2008, Michael announced he was giving up touring as he wanted "a quieter life" out of the public eye.

"Mainly the reason is because I'm 45 and I think pop music should be about youth culture," he told the BBC. "It shouldn't be an endurance test."

But just a month after playing his final shows, Michael was cautioned following an arrest in a public toilet for possession of drugs, thought to include crack cocaine.

A public apology followed with Michael telling his fans that he was planning to "sort myself out".

Michael was sentenced for his most recent offences at Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court, which also fined him £1,250.

The star, who admitted the offence at an earlier hearing in August, had arrived at the court wearing dark glasses and waving to fans.

He is likely to serve half the time before being considered for parole.

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