Eastenders star's career in the balance

By Steve GravenorSHAMED EastEnders star Jessie Wallace's career was hanging in the balance last night after she was branded a liar in court as she tried to escape a drink-drive ban.

By Steve Gravenor

SHAMED EastEnders star Jessie Wallace's career was hanging in the balance last night after she was branded a liar in court as she tried to escape a drink-drive ban.

The 32-year-old star tried to wriggle out of a driving ban by claiming her uncle had spiked her drinks with double vodka.

But a district judge refused to accept her claim and yesterday banned her from the roads for three years, fined her £1,000 and ordered her to pay £1,000 costs.

Wallace, who plays Kat Slater in the hit BBC soap, was caught after being stopped for speeding just after midnight on March 18 this year.

She was one-and-a-half times over the limit when she was pulled over in Chelmsford as she drove her PNDS32,000 Mercedes home to Wansted from her aunt and uncle's home in nearby Hatfield Peverel.

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Wallace had tried to wriggle out of a driving ban by telling the court her uncle Dennis Bell had laced her drinks with double vodkas to try to cheer her up.

But district Judge Kevin Gray, sitting at Southend Magistrates' Court, dismissed her claims and said: "On the balance of probability, Miss Wallace has fallen far short of showing these drinks were laced on that night.

"I do not accept that evidence and I do not find that she was unaware of the amount of alcohol in her drinks."

He imposed a three-year ban because it was her second drink-driving related offence.

Wallace, wearing a black suit, black polo neck jumper and stiletto boats, arrived at court with boyfriend Dave Morgan, who quit as an Essex cop on Sunday.

She had earlier denied the charge but changed her plea when the accusation was put to her yesterday.

Nick Freeman, her solicitor, tried to get her out of the ban by claiming special reasons - that her drinks had been spiked and that she thought she was safe to drive.

Wallace told the court she had gone to her aunt and uncle, Denis and Elaine Bell's, home to pick up her pet shiatsu dog as they had cared for it while she was on holiday in Antigua.

She ended up staying for an egg and bacon supper and then decided to stay the night instead of driving home.

Her Uncle Denis poured her two glasses of wine and during the course of the evening he took her then boyfriend, Andy Burton, for a drink at the local pub.

Wallace said when they returned at about 11.30pm, she decided to drive home because she had an early start on the set of the EastEnders studio at Borehamwood, Herts.

It was during the journey that she was stopped for speeding in Princes Road, Chelmsford, and gave a positive breath test.

Wallace said: "I was shocked. I didn't understand. I was upset, very upset. I was hysterical, I was really crying.

"I didn't understand. I couldn't believe I was over the limit when I thought I had consumed two glasses of wine. It was just shock"

Further tests showed Wallace had 51mcgs of alcohol in 100mls of blood. The legal limit is 35mcgs.

Wallace told the court she had sought to challenge the accuracy of the intoximeter used to take her breath sample at Chelmsford police station because she didn't understand how she came to be over the limit.

But a month later after her second court appearance, she claimed her uncle Denis told her he had slipped a double vodka into each of her glasses of wine.

Under cross-examination by prosecutor Charles Llewellyn, Wallace stuck to her story and said she was shocked and upset that her uncle had spiked her drinks.

But Mr Llewellyn said: "You are telling a story about this. You have come to court and lied."

Wallace replied: "I am not a liar. I do not lie. If I have done something wrong I would take the punishment."

Mr Bell was called as a witness and told the court he had spiked her drink to cheer her up.

"Karen was a bit subdued that night. I don't know why. I thought I would cheer her up a bit. She is very comical when she has had a few drinks."

He said he had not admitted what he had done because he felt so guilty. But he said he had finally owned up because he knew he had to tell her.

But after a two-hour hearing, Judge Gray dismissed Wallace's argument and imposed the three-year ban after hearing she had a similar conviction from 1998.

He said: "On the balance of probability, Miss Wallace has fallen far short of showing these drinks were laced on that night.

"I do not accept that evidence and I do not find that she was unaware of the amount of alcohol in her drinks."

He said she could reduce her ban by nine months if she attends a drink-driving rehabilitation court.

Wallace refused to comment as she left court with Dave Morgan and was bundled into the back of a black BMW X5 with blacked out windows.

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