Wed, 20 Dec 2017
NEWBURY MP Richard Benyon has been banned from driving after being caught using a mobile phone behind the wheel.
Magistrates at Willesden, north London, heard this morning (Wednesday) that Mr Benyon was caught by a police officer using his phone while sitting in stationary traffic.
Magistrates' heard the MP continued to use the phone after the light turned green and he moved 'five to seven metres' forward.
Speaking to NewburyToday Mr Benyon said: "“I deeply regret my actions and entirely accept the verdict of the court.
"There is no excuse for texting while driving even in stationary and heavy traffic, which was the situation in my case.”
Prosecuting, Beata Murphy told the court that Mr Benyon was spotted by a police motorcyclist in a queue of traffic in Islington, at 9.59am on Friday, April 21.
"Mr Benyon had his mobile phone in his lap and was using his thumb to send a text message," the court heard.
When the traffic light went green, the former Defra minister was said to have carried on looking at the phone and 'manipulating' the screen with his hand, the court heard.
Mr Benyon was pulled over and admitted to using the phone saying: 'I thought I was allowed to use it when I'm not moving'.
Magistrates' heard Mr Benyon already had six points on his licence, three from a speeding offence in October 2014, and three for another speeding offence from September 2015.
Changes in law over the number of points that can be issued for using a mobile phone while driving was increased from three points to six points in March this year.
Magistrates' ordered Mr Benyon be issued six points, which puts him over the maximum number of twelve points allowed before a driver is disqualified.
Thomas Daniel, defending, pleaded with the bench to use its discretionary powers to hand Mr Benyon a shorter disqualification period.
Mr Daniel said that if the offence had taken place six weeks prior, the MP would have been automatically issued three points and would not be over the point limit under the 'totting up' system.
He said: "As of March of this year this offence was increased from three to six penalty points. The court of course still do have a discretion to pass a sentence on any matter, grave or not.
"You have a discretion to pass a short discretionary ban.
"12 points has the effect of bringing about a disqualification and wipes the licence clean.
"From the witness statement the officer said he was sympathetic to Mr Benyon's position to sending that text message. The reason is because the road was completely gridlocked.
"He would have exercised his own discretion. He was sympathetic to drivers as meetings would be missed, appointments would not be kept.
"This is the lowest end of this type of offence. He moved only five to seven metres. And that is at about walking pace.'
Chair of the bench Nigel Wildish said: "With regard to disqualification, we have heard on Mr Benyon's behalf that he should suffer a short term disqualification as opposed to points on the totter.
"He should receive the six points as Parliament intended to be in effect as of 6 March and which anyone else would, which makes him a totter with a total of 12 points.
"Having become a totter he will be disqualified for a period of six months and that will reduce his points back to zero.'
Mr Benyon admitted one count of using a handheld mobile phone while driving.
He was also fined £306 and ordered to pay £85 in prosecution costs and a victim surcharge fee, making a total of £421.
The offence of using a mobile phone while driving now attracts an automatic six penalty points since the introduction of new legislation.