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Gloucestershire Business News

Olympic horseman wins appeal against driving ban

Top Olympic horseman and trainer Jonathan 'Jonty' Evans, 49, has succeeded in an appeal against a six-month driving ban after he said it would wreck his equestrian business and could even cost him his home.

Dad-of-two Evans, who travels all over the UK and abroad training horses for wealthy clients, was banned under the 'totting up' procedure by Cheltenham Magistrates in February this year for speeding at 39mph in his Audi A4 near Totnes in Devon.

It was his fourth speeding offence in three years - leading to an automatic six months ban.

But yesterday (May 19) he appealed to Gloucester Crown Court against the sentence, arguing that the ban would cause exceptional hardship to him, his business and his family.

The judge, Recorder Neil Millard, said the court would allow the appeal because the ban could result in Evans' stable yard employee losing her job and home, his two children by different mothers losing contact with each other, and his business being put in 'severe jeopardy.'

The ban could also risk Evans losing his horses and rented accommodation and affect his ability to travel to medical and therapy appointments for treatment following a severe head injury he suffered in a fall from a horse in 2018, the Recorder added.

But Recorder Millard warned Evans, formerly of Notgrove, near Stow on the Wold, Gloucestsershire, but now of Lower Ley Lane, Minsterworth, near Gloucester, that he will still have nine penalty points on his driving licence until July next year and he will not be able to use the same 'exceptional hardship' defence if he is caught speeding again before then.

"You shouldn't be speeding - you need to slow down," warned the Recorder.

The court lifted the ban but upheld the three penalty points and fine of £146 imposed by the magistrates.

Evans rode for Ireland in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on 'Cooley Rorkes Drift.' His team finished eighth in the three-day eventing competition and Evans qualified for the individual eventing final, finishing ninth.

He sustained a serious brain injury in a fall from his horse at the 2018 Tattersalls International Horse Trials in Ratoath, Ireland. He was unconscious for six weeks and then spent some time in a specialist neurological unit.

He returned to competition in August 2019 at the British Eventing horse trials at Smiths Lawn in Berkshire.

His lawyer Patrick Kelly told the court that the six-month ban imposed on Evans in February had been lifted after seven weeks pending today's appeal.

"He is self-employed. He has ridden in the Olympics. He has represented his country and he now trains Olympians," said Mr Kelly.

"They are the top echelon of horse riders in this country. He does his training all over the world.

"His clientele are people with their own land, horses and stables. He goes to them to do his training as opposed to having his own riding school.

"Without a driving licence he will not be able to do that and his business will fold. He has 14 horses at his stables - three are his own and the others are in livery. Nine of them are owners' horses.

"If a horse has to be taken to the vets he has to drive it. He has a truck for that and he is the only HGV licence owner who can drive it for the business.

"His stables are rented. If he is unable to drive and earn his living he will lose the stable yard and his home. He lives there alone save for his one employee."

The court considered a letter from Evans' ex-wife and mother of his 17-year-old daughter, Amelia, who attends Downside School, near Bath. Mr Kelly said Amelia visits her father most weekends and he has to drive to collect her and return her - a three-hour trip each time.

Also, Evans has a ten-year-old son in Shipton Oliffe, near Andoversford, and needs to drive to see him as well, added the lawyer.

Neither of the mothers was willing to drive the children to see Evans, he said.

Mr Kelly said Evans earns about £2,500 a month but has to pay £1,050 rent and £400 maintenance and currently lives largely off the insurance payout he received following his head injury.

In evidence, Evans said he goes to three regular medical and therapy appointments a week in Hartpury, Gloucester, and Swindon and needs to drive himself to those.

Giving the court's decision to lift the ban, Recorder Millard said: "We do find it would cause exceptional hardship. Your employee would lose her job and accommodation, your children would lose access to each other, your business would be in severe jeopardy and there would be a risk of the loss of your business, your accommodation and the horses.

"Also, your ability to get to your medical appointments would be affected and you need to get to them because of your serious head injury."

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