MP Soames banned from driving

TORY MP Nicholas Soames was slapped with a two month ban after admitting driving his quad bike with no insurance.

The ex Crawley MP, 60, a grandson of Sir Winston Churchill, was filmed committing the offence by hunt saboteurs as he followed a New Year’s Day hunt in Slaugham.

Footage showed a group of people, including three children aged three, five and seven and a pregnant woman, being carried unrestrained and without helmets on the Honda quad bike and trailer.

Soames, who faced the insurance rap at Crawley Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, had also been charged with using a vehicle in a dangerous condition.

But prosecutor Nigel Pilkington told the court that the second charge had been withdrawn by the Crown.

A DVD clip was played to the court showing Soames and his passengers coming off a grass verge to avoid the saboteurs’ parked cars before crossing into the next field at 10mph.

Mr Pilkington said: “Mr Soames accepts that as can be seen in the video, he was carrying a number of people in the vehicle and in the trailer, all of whom were unrestrained and all of whom were standing up.

“They included three children aged three, five and seven and a lady who was six months’ pregnant. Had any injury occurred to his party or any others then there would have been no insurance in place to compensate the parties.”

The court was told that Soames had three previous endorsements on his licence, all fixed penalties, one of which is out of date now but not at the time of the offence.

Mr Pilkington said that shamed Soames had admitted the charge when quizzed by cops.

He added: “He was interviewed by police and he said he’d had the bike since 2004, he essentially said there was no insurance and he pleaded guilty.”

The court heard that Soames had ignored various manufacturer notes on the bike, which warn about carrying passengers and driving on public roads.

But Tim Hayden, defending, praised the fact that his client had cooperated with police and said that Soames’ driving had been ‘extremely careful’.

He said: “This being an era of modern hunting, Mr Soames would not have known where the trail would have taken place so he needed to get from one field to another.

“I emphasise that his driving throughout was cautious and careful. The cargo that he was carrying were people that were close to him and that was the reason why he drove extremely carefully.

“It is not contended, you have heard, that the use of this vehicle was in any way dangerous.

The footage of the hunt, featured in The Observer in mid January, followed the Boxing Day death of seven-year-old Elizabeth Cooke, who was involved in an accident while riding a quad bike in Essex.

Speaking to the court Mr Hayden also criticised ‘vindictive’ hunt saboteurs for releasing the video to the media and said it had been an attempt to ’embarrass’ Soames.

He added: “The playing of it in that way is regarded by my client as a vindictive act even though he deals with the legal consequences through me.

“I ask that the court consider that it was done to embarrass him, and of course he is embarrassed by it, but all of the opprobrium that was directed at the time did not acknowledge the facts you have with you now.”

Mr Hayden also asked the magistrates to consider Soames’ position when disqualifying him.

He said: “He has elected to serve the public, he constituency work depends on him being able to attend a large number of meetings, and this is a time when one of his campaigns, the Princess Royal hospital, is reaching a crescendo.”

Rosie McMahon, chairing the magistrates, said: “We have noted that it was a short distance and that it was cautiously driven.

“But the vehicle was not suitable for a public road.”

And she announced that Soames would have to pay a £200 fine, £15 victim surcharge and £35 prosecution costs on top of the two month driving ban.

Speaking outside the court Soames said:”I’m glad that the court has dealt with it and I’m glad it’s all over.”

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