Speed-case Pc discharge condemned
The absolute discharge handed to a police officer clocked speeding at 159mph in an unmarked police car has been criticised by road safety groups.
West Mercia Pc Mark Milton, 38, was found guilty of dangerous driving on the M54 in Shropshire in 2003.
However, the district judge said he had suffered enough from the lengthy case.
Victims' charity RoadPeace said it sent out the message that "speeding doesn't matter" and road safety charity Brake described the decision as "absurd".
Pc Milton was caught driving at high speeds on the M54 by cameras on board his unmarked car in December 2003.
He was originally cleared of dangerous driving but the High Court overturned his acquittal and ordered a retrial.
Following his conviction on Friday, Ludlow Magistrates' Court District Judge Peter Wallis said the West Mercia Police officer had "suffered enough" with two-and-a-half years of court proceedings.
Pc Milton, an advanced driver, had always maintained he was familiarising himself with the Vauxhall Vectra and was practising the skills he had learnt.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) said such speeds could never be justified on public roads.
RoadPeace founder Brigitte Chaudhry said: "It will surprise everybody that the judge should have exonerated this man, when a police officer should have been driving in an exemplary fashion and not breaking the law.
"In other situations a police officer breaking the law would have been held to account."
There is absolutely no excuse for driving at killer speeds on a public highway
"If he wanted to test out his car there are racing tracks to do that. To test out the car on the road is highly irresponsible."
Brake chief executive Mary Williams said the authorities needed to toughen up on dangerous drivers, not "let them off".
"Although Brake is pleased that the court has convicted Pc Milton of dangerous driving, letting him walk away from court completely unpunished is absurd," she said.
"There is absolutely no excuse for driving at killer speeds on a public highway. He endangered his own life and the lives of others.
Rospa said it was pleased Pc Milton had been found guilty but believed an absolute discharge sent out the wrong message.
"We believe police forces should implement proper management procedures for their high-speed driving, which should include an upper limit and we do not believe that speeds of around 150mph, as cited in this case, can ever be justified on public roads," said spokeswoman Jo Stagg.
However, West Mercia Police Federation said it was "disappointed" with the guilty verdict and that it would lodge an appeal.
Pc Milton's solicitor David Twigg said the appeal would challenge the judge's view that his client's advanced driving skills were irrelevant to the charge.
In a statement read out in court, Pc Milton said: "I was advised to familiarise myself with vehicles, so when there was a need to respond at speed you were aware of its performance."
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