In the Media

Road safety charities outraged at Bowyer's driving ban

PUBLISHED April 20, 2006

Road safety charities reacted with anger after ex-England footballer Lee Bowyer was banned from driving for just six weeks after admitting speeding.

The Newcastle United midfielder was disqualified after he admitted driving at nearly 100mph in his silver Porsche 911 on the A1 in Northumberland last year.

It emerged after the court case that Bowyer, 29, may have escaped a longer driving ban by proving the police's speed camera was not 100% accurate.

His lawyer Nick Freeman - dubbed "Mr Loophole" - specialises in representing celebrities accused of motoring offences.

The Manchester-based solicitor has defended football star David Beckham, his ex-manager Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand and snooker champion Ronnie O'Sullivan.

After lengthy legal argument Bowyer admitted to speeding at 99mph on the 70mph A1, near Morpeth, Northumberland last July while on his way to his club's training session.

Anyone caught doing 30mph above the speed limit - in Bowyer's case more than 100mph - is likely to be banned by the courts.

He had initially denied the offence when accused of speeding at almost twice the limit, peaking at 132mph.

A police officer in an unmarked car trailed him for more than eight miles and clocked Bowyer driving at an average of 112mph on a stretch of the A1.

However, it emerged after the case that the road markings used by the police on the dual carriageway to clock Bowyer speeding in his high powered sports car were out by 26 yards - meaning he was doing less than 112mph.

South East Northumberland Magistrates' Court, sitting in Hexham, banned Bowyer from driving for 42 days, fined him ?650 and ordered him to pay ?100 court costs after he admitted speeding.

Margaret Kynoch-MacDonald, chair of the bench, told him: "Because this is the second time you have been excessively speeding in the past three years, we ban you from driving for 42 days."

The court heard Bowyer had been banned from driving by JPs in Leeds almost four years ago under the totting up procedure, after breaking the 70mph speed limit.

The footballer, who has one England cap, was also disqualified for 42 days in March last year by Grantham magistrates after he was caught doing 96mph.

Anti-speed campaigners said Bowyer, of Burgham Park, Felton, Northumberland should have been banned for the maximum six months.

Dianne Ferreira, from Brake, said: "Lee Bowyer has been banned from driving twice before and he doesn't seem to be learning his lesson.

"He is sending out the wrong message to fellow young drivers that speeding is acceptable - it is not."

She also criticised the decision to fine the footballer just ?650 - a fraction of his estimated ?30,000 a week salary.

"Once again he is a Premiership footballer earning thousands of pounds a week, so a ?650 fine is a pittance," she told the Press Association.

"He has now been banned for a third time and it means absolutely nothing to him.

"Lee Bowyer is in the public eye and so he should be setting an example to his fans and other young motorists that speeding is totally unacceptable."

Outside court Mr Freeman admitted there had been some "negotiations" with the prosecution over his client's case.

Mr Freeman explained that after discussions with the Crown, Bowyer had admitted speeding at 99mph rather than the original offence.

"He was summoned for speeding, he was not summoned for speeding at 132mph," he said.

"There was a great deal of negotiation with the Crown and my client pleaded guilty to speeding at 99mph.

"It was a plea the Crown accepted."

Mr Freeman said Bowyer was "very happy" with the result and agreed that many people would see the fine of ?650 as small when compared to his client's salary.

"There will certainly be those that say this was not a lot but that is what the magistrates imposed, but it obviously is a lot for someone like me or you," he added.

Some questioned whether the Crown should be negotiating with a defendant.

Edmund King, director of the RAC Foundation, said it was a "bizarre" case.

"I certainly question the legality of what was going on," he said.

"Speeding is so serious that this should not be a case of plea bargaining or negotiation.

"This case is a complete mess and it is difficult to see how justice has been done.

"Anyone caught doing over 100mph would normally be banned for six months, maybe longer.

"If it was the case that the speed recording equipment was faulty then you have to question why the case was not thrown out.

"It is a shame that 26 million other motorists never get the same level of representation. It does not appear that justice cuts across the board."

Northumbria Police said the piece of equipment used to catch Bowyer was more than 98% accurate and there was "no possibility" of anyone being wrongly convicted.

"There is no possibility that anyone will have been wrongly convicted as a result of having their speed recorded on this piece of equipment," the force said in a statement.

"The calibration on the equipment being used was slightly out, due to the mile markings on the road being out by 26 yards.

"This equates to an accuracy of more than 98% and has now been rectified so that it is 100% accurate.

"However, the tolerances we work to when recording speed for possible prosecution mean that we take account of such slight variations in calibration."