Man who flouted driving ban spared jail after pleading he needed to help son with Bar Mitzvah

Matthew Winch has avoided jail  (Facebook)
Matthew Winch has avoided jail (Facebook)

A financial advisor caught flouting a driving ban has been spared a prison sentence as pleading with a judge that he needs to be free to help his son prepare for his Bar Mitzvah.

Matthew Winch, 53, was using his mobile phone to read a text as he drove along Fulham Road, despite being only halfway through a six-month driving ban.

When pulled over by police, Winch – who was also uninsured on his wife’s Land Rover Discovery – said he had decided to take a trip to the swimming baths to get away from the stresses of his life.

Winch’s lawyer, Sarah King, told Westminster Magistrates Court Winch, a father-of-four, was suffering from immense pressure after the collapse of his business during the pandemic and plays a key role in his children’s lives, as she urged the judge not to impose a prison sentence.

“His 12-year-old son is at a very crucial age”, she said. “In November his Bar Mitzvah is due to take place.

“Mr Winch, as father, has the responsibility of teaching and guiding his son through the process. Were he removed from the family, there’s no other male to do that.

“The effect of not attending his son’s Bar Mitzvah would be catastrophic, in Mr Winch’s words.”

District Judge Michael Snow imposed a six-week curfew between 8pm and 6am on Winch, banned him from driving for 15 months, ordered him to pay £1,400 in fines as well as £549 in court costs and fees.

“It is bad driving in central London, where pedestrians, cyclists, and scooter users are all at risk, while he is on his mobile phone distracted”, he said.

“The reason for imposing punishments for driving while disqualified is because of the risks to the community. The ordinary stating point is an immediate custodial sentence.

“In determining it is not necessary to impose a sentence of imprisonment, I note you have no previous convictions, the impact on your family, and the stress you have been under recently.”

The court heard Winch was pulled over by police at 3.40pm on August 18 after being spotted on his mobile phone, and checks showed he did not have insurance on the car and had been banned from driving in May after racking up 12 points on his licence.

Prosecutor Tazkia Rahman said Winch accepted his crimes, saying to officers: “Sorry, guilty, bad mistake.”

Ms King said Winch is relying heavily on his savings and has had to remove his children from private education after his central London property rental business collapsed during the pandemic.

He still has work as a financial advisor to start-up businesses, she added, but said he is struggling to attract clients in the “niche” sector.

“He was suffering at that time from the pressure of everything”, she said. “It built up and he made a decision to go swimming.

“The pressure he was under may explain why a man of such exemplary standing in the community, having never been before the court, chose to act in such a way.”

Winch, who lives in a £3.8 million apartment in Marylebone, pleaded guilty to driving while disqualified, driving within no insurance, and using a mobile phone while driving.

He will pay off the court bill at a rate of £300 a month.