Saturday, 1 November 2008

'Exceptional hardship'

Former England football star John Barnes has sparked fury after he escaped a ban for driving without insurance by claiming he was too poor to employ a driver. Barnes - who raked in millions of pounds during a 20-year career as a top football player - told magistrates a ban would cause him 'exceptional hardship' even though he still earns thousands of pounds a week. The 44-year-old, who played for Watford, Liverpool and Newcastle, had faced a lengthy ban from the roads after he was caught driving his £60,000 BMW X5 sports car on the M6 motorway without insurance.

Magistrates in Northwhich, Cheshire, agreed to spare him a ban after 'taking into consideration his work, family and charity commitments'.But road safety campaigners have condemned the leniency of the court for showing favouritism to the former football star. Jane Whitham, of Brake, said: 'No one is above the insurance system and they shouldn't be above the law which is there to protect road users. 'It's ridiculous for the criminal justice system to let someone off a driving ban because they can't afford a chauffeur - what's wrong with the bus?'

The court heard that Barnes was caught driving without insurance on the M6 at Thelwall in June. He already had nine points on his licence and a six-point penalty for having no insurance would have taken him over the 12-point instant ban limit. Magistrates said they took into consideration his work, family and charity commitments and accepted that a ban would cause him exceptional hardship. He was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £35 costs within 56 days. Although six points were imposed on his licence the ban was suspended.