A woman who got behind the wheel MINUTES after being disqualified from driving following a smash on the M60 has avoided jail – but has been slapped with a hefty fine.
Simara Knopka was spotted by a Manchester Evening News photographer driving away in her son’s Nissan Micra following a court appearence.
Minutes earlier, she had been banned from the road by a judge.
Knopka was disqualified at Manchester Crown Court on November 5 having driven the wrong way down the M60 and smashing into a car head-on.
The 39-year-old – who has never held a full UK driving licence and has never passed a test – was pictured driving away from court just minutes after receiving a two-year ban.
She pleaded guilty to driving while disqualified and driving without insurance at Manchester Magistrates’ Court.
yesterday been (Friday), she appeared before the Crown Court judge who sentenced her the first time around.
Knopka, who works as a housekeeper at a hotel, was handed a four-month sentence, suspended for two years.
The defendant, of Earlsway, Macclesfield, was hit with a £1,000 fine and banned from the roads for 12 months, to run alongside her current ban.
A further month was added to her electronically monitored curfew and she must pay court costs of £340.
Prosecutor Craig MacGregor earlier said Knopka was sentenced to a community order – as well as the ban – for dangerous driving and driving otherwise in accordance with a licence during her first court appearance.
He said: “On May 28 Miss Knopka drove her car onto the M60 slip road at junction 15 against the flow of traffic and collided head-on with another vehicle on the motorway.
“The police were informed and at just after 1.15am PC Patel arrived and a roadside breath test was completed and although she said to the officer she had not had a drink, she blew 24ml – the legal limit being 35ml.”
Officers dealt with the other car, which had flipped onto its roof, before returning to Knopka.
Cops soon realised she only had a provisional licence, was not displaying L plates and was not being supervised by a qualified driver.
An interim ban was imposed prior to her initial Crown Court sentencing appearance as magistrates deemed their sentencing powers insufficient.
Recorder Nick Clarke QC made Knopka the subject of a two-month community order, a four-month electronically monitored curfew.
He handed her a £500 fine.
Knopka was disqualified from driving for two years and told from that moment on, she should not drive until she passed an extended re-test.
“Having been given the opportunity by the court the defendant left the court building,” Mr MacGregor told Friday’s hearing.
“Having just been banned from driving for two years – and with the learned judge’s warning ringing in her ears – [she] decided to drive home.”
“The driving was caught on camera by press photographer Steve Allen, who was working for the M.E.N. at the sentence hearing.
“He took photographs of the defendant driving out of Bridge Street car park, coming out of court with a friend – Bridge Street car park is but a few metres from the entrance to the court building.
“If it had not been for the M.E.N. photographer, these offences would have never have come to light.
“It is the Crown’s case that this was a brazen, if not barefaced disregard for orders of the Crown Court.”
Knopka said she drove to court as she did not have many people in the UK to support her.
Mr MacGregor added: “Miss Knopka has not got and never has had a full UK licence, was on an interim disqualification when she deliberately chose to drive to and from court.”
Defence lawyer Thomas McKail initially applied to adjourn the case to apply for a psychiatric report.
He said Knopka had suffered with symptoms of anxiety and depression following the death of her mother from cancer 10 years ago, for which she has received therapy and medication for the past six years.
These symptoms had subsided until her split from her husband in January this year, though she did not tell the author of the probation report as she was ‘embarrassed by it’, Mr McKail added.
She has since been prescribed medication from her doctors including antidepressants and has sought counselling.
“These symptoms presented themselves through this year, and in some parts contributed to her error and lapse of judgement,” he said.
“This isn’t the type of behaviour she would ordinarily behave in and she apologises to the court.
“There was a court appearance on November 5, she had arranged to be brought by her friend – she was let down by her friend.
“Due to the defendant’s lack of sleep, her anxiety and being extremely concerned and worried about the court proceedings, she decided that in order to be on time, she would drive to court.
“Respectfully, this was not a flagrant disregard for the disqualification – she considered it a necessary act to ensure she was on time for these courts that day.
“Given her position at the time she made that decision, one of pure lunacy, to drive to court.
“She apologises to Your Honour readily for this act and she apologises to the public for this act.
“She accepts and understands the angry reaction from the Manchester people from being in the paper.”
He added that Knopka had bought the car for her eldest son, but following her arrest she sold the vehicle for £1,500.
Recorder Nick Clarke QC told Knopka: “On November 5 you were sentenced by me on the basis you had no previous convictions and I was told about your personal circumstances and work ethic, and so I allowed you your liberty but disqualified you from driving for two years.
“I specifically told you that before you could drive again you must pass an extended driving test.
“Yet you reaped the mercy I showed by immediately driving home.
“I thank the Manchester Evening News and Mr Allen in particular for bringing these matters to the attention of the police and providing a photograph of the defendant driving out of Bridge Street car park – which officers provided the incontrovertible evidence that proved the case against you