Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish ‘smelled of alcohol’ when he reversed ‘at speed’ into parked cars before climbing out of his £80,000 Range Rover and slurring his words following a party during the Covid lockdown, a court heard today.
The 25-year-old England international left the party and got behind the wheel of his high-powered 4×4 before reversing into a silver Citroen van and a £30,000 silver C-class Mercedes, mounting a kerb and crashing into a wall.
Grealish did not appear at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court today, but entered pleas through his lawyer, Barry Warburton – admitting driving without due care.
The midfielder, of Barnt Green, Worcestershire, was involved in the incident less than 24 hours after issuing a Twitter video message urging people to stay at home to fight Covid.
A security guard who confronted him following the crash described him as ‘smelling of liquor’, having slurred speech and being unsteady on his feet.
He also pleaded guilty to a separate offence of careless driving after he was spotted driving at more than 90mph along the M42 at ‘close to an intimidating distance’ by an unmarked police patrol, on October 18.
Mr Warburton – who has a string of footballer clients including Rio Ferdinand and Peter Crouch – told the court he had tried to reach Grealish to ask if he could attend court this afternoon but he was at training and his phone was in his locker.
The judge replied: ‘Very well, I shall adjourn sentencing of Mr Grealish’s case to December 15 at 10am, in this court.’
Photographs circulated of Grealish, wearing odd footwear, after the crash in March
A video grab showing Grealish’s damaged Range Rover after he crashed it after a lockdown party
Prosecutor Tinofara Nyatanga told the court the lockdown crash happened in a residential cul-de-sac in fine, dry conditions at 8.40am on March 29 – six days after nationwide restrictions had been imposed.
Mrs Nyatanga delivered an account given by a security guard who witnessed what happened as he turned up to begin his shift.
The worker, who had parked in the road, first saw Grealish, wearing a blue hoodie with two different coloured slippers on his feet, walking past his car.
Seeing Grealish get into the Range Rover, he said the 4×4 was then ‘reversed at speed’, crashing into a silver Citroen van, before being ‘driven at speed’ out of the close.
The security officer then saw the 4×4 mount a kerb and pause for a minute, before it was again reversed at speed, ‘swerving left and right’, hitting a grey Mercedes in a ‘side-swipe’ collision.
The Range Rover was then driven into a nearby car park wall.
Getting out to speak to the driver, the security officer was aware of a passenger in the 4×4, when he recognised the man who had been at the wheel as Grealish, ‘a professional footballer who he’d seen on the TV before’.
Mrs Nyatanga, recounting the guard’s opinion of Grealish, said: ‘He could smell, in his opinion, intoxicating liquor on his breath.
‘His speech was slurred and he was unsteady on his feet.’
Grealish gave his name, address and phone number to the security guard before leaving the scene.
Two police officers investigating the incident were unable to locate an address where Grealish was thought to have been, later conducting a ‘safe and well check’ at an address listed on his insurance.
During the hearing, District Judge John Bristow pointed out the driving offence took place well into the first national Covid-19 lockdown, when Grealish ‘shouldn’t even have been driving’.
Asked to clarify whether he had been charged with leaving home without a reasonable excuse, Mrs Nyatanga said: ‘No, but the prosecution would submit it is an aggravating factor.’
Grealish apologised hours after the incident, saying in a video message that he was ‘deeply embarrassed’ and had ‘stupidly agreed’ to go around to a friend’s house.
During the October 18 offence, Grealish was seen driving at ‘close to an intimidating distance’ behind other drivers on the M42, between junctions 6 and 7, at about 2.40pm, in a bid ‘to get them to move out of the way’.
His car was clocked by an unmarked police patrol doing up to 98mph on a stretch of the motorway, with an average speed of 90mph.
As Grealish left the M42 heading towards the A446, he then crossed road hatching markings on a roundabout ‘cutting up another vehicle in the process’.
Eventually, officers used their sirens to pull him over near Villa’s training ground at Bodymoor Heath, where the star was ‘calm and compliant’ and apologised for his driving.
Grealish, 25, admitted one offence in connection with a collision in Dickens Heath, near Solihull, on March 29, six days after national restrictions were imposed nationwide
Damage to the driver’s side of a Mercedes car that Grealish crashed into during the incident
Grealish was rated man of the match after finishing the full 90 minutes in his side’s 1-0 win over Leicester City on the night of October 18.
He had denied two other charges connected to the Dickens Heath incident, of failing to stop and failing to report the incident. The Crown Prosecution Service offered no evidence and the charges were dismissed.
The judge said Grealish already had six penalty points on his driving licence for a 2018 motorway speeding offence and could be at risk of a driving ban under the totting-up scheme.
He asked defence lawyer Barry Warburton whether Grealish would be able to attend the court’s afternoon session to hear his sentence.
After a short break in proceedings, Mr Warburton told the judge: ‘He is in training, sir. His phone is in his locker and the best guess is he won’t get access to his phone until three o’clock.’
After hearing further submissions from Grealish’s lawyer, the judge adjourned sentence until December 15, when the player is set to attend.
Grealish previously apologised for ‘stupidly’ agreeing to visit a friend’s flat after urging fans to stay indoors for the virus lockdown.
It was reported he had been visiting ex-Scottish striker and former Villa player Ross McCormack and former Leeds player Tony Capaldi was also in attendance.
Pictures emerged online at the time showing a dazed-looking Grealish at the crash scene dressed in one black slipper and a white slip-on sandal.
Villa fined him £150,000 for breaching Government guidelines and donated the money to The University Hospitals Charity in Birmingham.
Pictures emerged online of Grealish exiting the flat of ex-Scottish striker and former Villa player Ross McCormack after the crash (left). He is pictured on the right playing for Villa on Saturday
In a video message to fans following the incident, Grealish said: ‘Hi, everybody just want to do a quick video message just to say how deeply embarrassed I am by what has happened this weekend.
‘I know it is a tough time for everyone at the moment, being locked indoors for so long, and I obviously got a call off a friend asking to go round to his and I stupidly agreed to do so.
‘I don’t want anyone to make the same mistake as I did so I obviously urge everyone to stay at home and follow the rules and the guidelines of what we’ve been asked to do.
‘I know for a fact that I will be doing that in the near future now and like I said I urge everyone to do the same.’
At the time of his fine, Villa said in a statement: ‘Aston Villa is deeply disappointed that one of our players ignored the Government’s guidance on staying at home during the Coronavirus crisis.
‘Club Captain Jack Grealish has accepted that his decision to leave his house was wrong and entirely unnecessary.
‘It breached the government guidelines which are clear and should be adhered to by everybody.
‘The player will be disciplined and fined with the proceeds donated to The University Hospitals Charity in Birmingham.’
Another grab showing damage to Grealish’s car after he crashed it. The winger did not appear in court but entered pleas through his lawyer