Ex-rugby star, 28, faces jail for third drink-related driving offence

Ex-rugby union star, 28, faces jail for third drink-related driving offence in four years after fleeing cop who smelt alcohol on him in car – then threatened to Taser him if he didn’t give up chase

  • Mark Jennings, 28, was arrested after he was stopped by police on the A56 
  • The 6ft-tall former rugby union player allegedly ‘smelled of intoxicants’ 
  • The father-of-one has a history of drink, drug and mental health problems
  • He admitted defying a drink driving ban at Tameside Magistrates Court 

An ex-Premiership rugby union star faces jail after he today admitted defying a drink driving ban while again suspected of being drunk behind the wheel.

Mark Jennings, 28, was arrested after a policeman was forced to draw his taser on him when he tried to run away from the Mini Cooper convertible during a traffic stop along the A56 Chester Road in Stretford, Greater Manchester.

The 6ft-tall former Sale Sharks and England winger was allegedly ‘smelling of intoxicants’ when he was pulled over by a police officer.

He then refused to provide a breath sample despite repeated requests, Tameside magistrates heard.

Homeless Jennings, who currently lives in a hotel in Altrincham, was serving a three-year ban for driving a Land Rover Discovery while more than twice the alcohol limit on New Years Eve 2019. This followed a previous drink driving conviction from 2017.

Mark Jennings (pictured), 28, was arrested after a policeman was forced to draw his taser on him when he tried to run away from the Mini Cooper convertible during a traffic stop along the A56 Chester Road in Stretford, Greater Manchester

The father-of-one (pictured), who has a history of drink, drug and mental health problems, admitted failing to provide a specimen for analysis and driving while disqualified

The father-of-one, who has a history of drink, drug and mental health problems, admitted failing to provide a specimen for analysis and driving while disqualified.

He was bailed by magistrates but warned: ‘The custody threshold had been crossed.’

At midnight on June 15 Jennings was spotted driving his girlfriend’s Mini ‘at speed’, with a ‘strong smell of burning and smoke coming from the vehicle’.

Prosecutor Zac Azim said: ‘The officer followed it for a considerable distance then requested the defendant to pull the mini over in a small retail park and the car came to a stop.’

He said 15 stone Jennings jumped out of the driver’s seat and ran away from police in the direction of a set of shops. 

Mr Azim added: ‘The officer gave chase and was only a short distance behind the defendant at all times. The defendant ran to a row of shop units, but he had nowhere else to turn and stopped.’

The police officer, intimidated by Jennings’ size, drew his taser and demanded the defendant get on the ground. 

Jennings, who was born in the African country of Namibia, signed for Sale Sharks on his 16th birthday. It made him the youngest professional in the history of the club and he played for England at U16, U18 and U20 level. Pictured, playing for Sale Sharks in 2018

‘He was in front of the officer and was a man of large, muscular build. To avoid any further attempt to escape, the officer drew his taser and shouted to the defendant to get on the floor. The defendant complied with the order and put his hands on his back,’ Mr Azim said.

‘A few seconds later, other officers arrived. He was arrested initially on suspicion of theft of a motor vehicle but refused to pass over his details and he was escorted to the police van.

‘Due to him smelling of intoxicants, he was requested to provide a specimen of breath in the handheld breath machine.’

Mr Azim said Jennings was given ‘several opportunities’ to offer a breath sample but refused and was arrested at 12.15am on suspicion of failing to provide a sample of breath.

‘The defendant was established to be a disqualified driver, and the car was registered to his partner.’

Jennings had been previously banned from the roads for 18 months for drink driving in 2017 and was banned again in January 2020 for driving his Land Rover through Tabley, Knutsford whilst having 85 micrograms of alcohol in his system. The legal limit is 35mg.

Mr Azim said Jennings (pictured) was given ‘several opportunities’ to offer a breath sample but refused and was arrested at 12.15am on suspicion of failing to provide a sample of breath

The former star also had a previous conviction for possessing cocaine and in 2019 was convicted of assault on police after he headbutted one officer and then threatened to rape a Constable as he was being arrested over a drunken argument with Miss Atkins at his luxury former home in Hale.

When asked by the magistrates about the latest offences he said: ‘I have nothing to say.’ 

Bailing him for sentence later this month a magistrate said: ‘Mr Jennings, the bench has determined that this level of incident crosses the custody threshold in this regard.

‘It’s your third drink related driving offence and we ask for probation to prepare a pre-sentence report. There is an interim disqualification although we appreciate you are disqualified already.’

Jennings, who was born in the African country of Namibia, signed for Sale Sharks on his 16th birthday. It made him the youngest professional in the history of the club and he played for England at U16, U18 and U20 level.

But last year he gave a revealing interview detailing his issues with drink and drugs which he said stemmed back to his childhood when his adoptive parents split up and he suffered from bouts of loneliness.

He admitted his professional career was finished but insisted he was planning on staying sober.

In his interview with Sky Sports Jennings said he initially started with bouts of comfort eating but then turned to smoking cannabis, snorting cocaine and in his teens he developed an addiction to painkilling tablets following a rugby injury.

He also recalled how when he was 12, his mother became a pub landlady and he would sneak down into the beer cellar for secret boozing sessions.

Jennings, who has been in and out of rehab clinics, said: ‘Addictive behaviours never left me. When I was training outside with the lads or the 80 minutes on the field, those were the moments for me when my mind was engaged in something and I wasn’t thinking about my past or the darkness.

‘To be stuck on the sidelines and not involved brought up feelings from when I was younger. It was like a switch in my head. 

‘Every time I was away from playing, or as soon as I’d finish a game my mind would go straight back to that darkness. I’d want to drink, I’d want to take drugs.’

He said the assault on police occurred after he contacted his birth mother in the hope of tracing his biological father only to learn she became pregnant with him through rape.

Three days after his arrest for the police assault, Sale Sharks announced he was taking a ‘sabbatical’ from professional rugby for the ‘foreseeable future.’

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