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24 star Sutherland faces jail

24, Season 5, starring Kiefer Sutherland

Story by Jack Foley

24 star Kiefer Sutherland will serve 48 days in jail after pleading no contest to drink driving charges.

The actor will serve the sentence during breaks in filming the seventh season of the hit series, as determined by a deal he struck with prosectuors.

Sutherland, 40, was stopped and arrested in Los Angeles last month (September 2007) following a party but is still on probation for a 2004 drink driving offence.

The jail sentence consists of 30 days for driving with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit and a further 18 days for violating his probation, according to court records.

Sutherland will reportedly serve 18 days from late December to early January and the remaining 30 in the summer, once production on 24 takes a break.

However, under the terms of the agreement, he must serve the time in full.

In addition, Sutherland received a six month driving ban and must attend alcohol education classes for 18 months as well as weekly alcohol therapy sessions for six months.

In a statement, the actor has apologised for his “poor judgement” and the “distress this has caused my family, friends and co-workers”.

He was not in court to deliver the plea but his lawyer, Blair Berk, entered the plea on his behalf. The actor’s decision means that production will not be disrupted on 24 and no one will lose their jobs.

It was immediately applauded by his bosses at TV network Fox, who issued a statement that read: “Kiefer made clear to us at the time of his arrest that his first concern was the welfare of those he worked with and that he intended to do whatever was necessary to prevent shutting down the show.

“He told us that even if he had to sacrifice more time in custody in order to protect the show and the jobs of those who work with him, he would do so. From what occurred today, it is evident he is a man of his word.”

Sutherland first took on the 24 role of Jack Bauer in 2001 and was recognised with an Emmy for his performance last year. But the sixth and most recent season was criticised for the over-use of torture and a drop in standards.

Season seven is widely expected to feature significant changes to the format and is one of the most keenly anticipated returning shows of 2008.

Last week, financial magazine Forbes named Sutherland as the tenth highest-paid celebrity in TV, stating that he earned $22m (£10.79m).