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Fury as Harriet "Harperson" avoids drive ban after crashing car while talking on mobile phone


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Fury as Harriet Harman avoids drive ban after crashing car while talking on mobile phone



By Daily Mail Reporter

Last updated at 5:53 PM on 08th January 2010



Harriet Harman was accused of getting off lightly today after she became the first serving Cabinet minister in living memory to plead guilty to a criminal offence.

Labour's deputy leader kept her driving licence for crashing her car while talking on a mobile phone, despite admitting a charge of driving without due care.

But a second charge of driving while using a mobile phone was withdrawn, sparking outrage from road safety groups and MPs.

Careless driving can be punished with a fine of up to £5,000, up to nine penalty points and a ban.

Miss Harman instead escaped with just a £350 fine and was ordered to pay £75 costs. Her driving licence was also endorsed with three points.



article-1241604-07CB79F5000005DC-948_468x323.jpg Backseat driver: Leader of the Commons Harriet Harman, who did not appear in court, arrives at Downing Street today



The MP for Camberwell and Peckham was at the centre of a police inquiry after she was allegedly involved in a collision with a parked car.


She allegedly wound down the window of her Ford Fiesta and told an onlooker: 'I'm Harriet Harman - you know where you can get hold of me'.

The case is particularly embarrassing for Ms Harman as she is a QC, Privy Council member and former Solicitor General.

The Crown Prosecution Service issued a summons accusing her of driving without due care and attention and driving while using a hand-held mobile phone.


The 59-year-old minister did not attend today's hearing. Instead she was at a Cabinet meeting in nearby Downing Street.


Scotland Yard officers questioned Ms Harman after the incident in Dulwich, south London, on July 3 last year, the day she visited the scene of a fire in a Camberwell tower block in which six people died.






Tory MP Nigel Evans said: 'I suspect there will be a few fuming motorists looking at that judgment and wondering how she got off so lightly.'

Another Tory MP, David Davies, who is a special constable, said : 'The most serious aspect was leaving the scene without giving full details, which seems to me extremely arrogant.'

Cathy Keeler, from road safety campaign group Brake, criticised the decision to drop the mobile phone charge.


'Driving while on a mobile is illegal for the very good reason it makes you far more likely to crash because it distracts your attention from the road — which appears to be exactly what happened in this case.'


Michael Jennings, prosecuting, told the court that Ms Harman got into her car while using the phone. 'She started the engine using the telephone. It was when she was moving backwards that she hit the car.'


Ms Harman’s lawyer Mark Haslam said it was a 'parking manoeuvre' at a speed of around 5mph. Ms Harman already had six points on her licence, for two speeding offences.


The Crown Prosecution Service said the mobile phone charge had been dropped because the penalty for driving without due care and attention was greater than that for using a mobile.

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Somebody explain to me the difference between drunk driving and other types of distracted driving?



As it happens, it has been proven that concentration is even more impaired by driving while using a mobile phone than by being just over the alcohol limit.

Therefore the penalty should be the same.;)

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