A police officer convicted of driving at speeds of 159mph in an unmarked car was given an absolute discharge by a judge today because he thought he had suffered enough during the legal process.

Pc Mark Milton was convicted of dangerous driving at Ludlow Magistrates? Court following a second trial.

In his first trial he was acquitted of the same offence, but the High Court overturned that acquittal earlier this year and ordered the re-trial.

During the recent trial, footage taken from the video camera fitted to a West Mercia Police Vauxhall Vectra was shown and Milton was seen to be regularly travelling at more than 100mph on A-roads and up to 159mph on the M54 during the early hours of December 5, 2003.

Pat Sullivan, for the prosecution, said the constable - who had 12 years? service under his belt - was driving at "eye-watering speeds".

Milton, an armed response officer, claimed he was honing his skills at the wheel following an advanced driving course.

The officer said he knew the on-board camera was recording during his journey and had rewound the tape and left it in the vehicle, in accordance with police procedure. Milton also claimed that the readings shown on the tape, which fluctuated wildly, were not accurate.

Defending his conduct, the policeman claimed that he had been encouraged by his trainers to practise his driving skills.

"We are trained to drive at high speeds - we are taught to drive in this manner," he said. "When I drove at these speeds in my training I wasn?t attending an emergency, and in training I was also travelling at high speeds like I was here, on roads around the country.

"There?d never been a problem up until then."

Passing sentence, District Judge Peter Wallis told Milton: "Your driving falls far beneath the standards expected of a careful and competent driver.

"In all circumstances I am satisfied to the criminal standard of proof that you are guilty of dangerous driving."

He continued: "He (Milton) has suffered quite a lot over the last two and a half years. I am going to grant an absolute discharge."
 
Outside court, Andy White, chairman of the West Mercia Police Federation, said an appeal against the conviction had already been lodged. "We have heard what the judge had to say and on behalf of Mark Milton we have lodged an appeal which is now in process."

He said that, due to the conviction, Milton would be subject to a disciplinary hearing with the force but that would more than likely not take place until after the appeal. Milton, of Telford, Shropshire, would not face automatic dismissal from his post as a traffic officer, he added.

Milton, who had attended court in a black suit and dark purple shirt, refused to answer journalists? questions as he left with his wife, Nicola. His solicitor, David Twigg, said that the appeal would challenge the judge?s view that Milton?s advance driving skills were irrelevant to the charge.

He said Milton?s driving was entirely in accordance with the training he had been given.

He said his client was disappointed with the outcome, and looked forward to the outcome of the appeal, which will be heard at Shrewsbury Crown Court.

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