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Thursday, 10 May, 2001, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Challenge over Straw's speeding driver
Home Secretary Jack Straw
Jack Straw's car is said to have reached 103mph
The decision not to prosecute a police driver, stopped for speeding in a car carrying the Home Secretary, is being challenged by a member of the public.

The unmarked Vauxhall Omega carrying Jack Straw was stopped by police on the southbound carriageway of the M5 near Taunton, Somerset, last July, travelling well above 70mph.

The Metropolitan Police driver is said to have believed there was a potential risk to Mr Straw from other cars and had "decided to use speed" to avoid the risk.

A decision was taken not to prosecute but Wilson George, from London, is asking for High Court permission to challenge that decision on grounds that it was not in the public interest.


The Metropolitan Police Service driver's primary duty was to protect the Home Secretary

Police statement
Mr George wants permission to seek judicial review, arguing the public has a right to expect the law be applied equally to everyone "regardless of status".

He says by not prosecuting the police driver the Crown Prosecution Service and the police "misapplied and misinterpreted" the law.

At the time the Chief Crown Prosecutor for Avon and Somerset reviewed all the evidence and advised there was "insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction".

Terrorist alert

According to a police statement issued soon after the incident, the driver of the car was protecting the Home Secretary from what he saw as a perceived risk following "an incident involving other vehicles".

It said: "The Metropolitan Police Service driver's primary duty was to protect the Home Secretary.

"The Home Secretary is among a very small number of people known to be at significant risk of lethal attack who receive round-the-clock armed police protection."

According to the police, the driver was within his legal rights to break the speed limit "at a time of heightened security awareness following terrorist incidents which had occurred in London".

Armed police

The car contained Mr Straw, his driver and his armed personal protection officer.

Mr Straw was in the back seat and the two officers were in the front.

The Home Secretary was heading for a speaking engagement in Exeter at the time.

After the car was stopped Mr Straw's personal protection officer spoke to the Avon and Somerset officers briefly and the vehicle was allowed to proceed.

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See also:

21 Jul 00 | UK Politics
PM will not intervene in Straw case
01 Jul 00 | UK
Shock treatment for drivers
25 May 00 | UK
Putting your foot down
26 Nov 99 | UK Politics
Fury at speeding climbdown
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