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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 March, 2004, 13:21 GMT
Teen escapes fine by 'sitting quietly'
Scales of Justice
A teenage driver guilty of motoring and drug offences was let off more than 400 fines - because he sat still in court for half an hour.

Mark Jones, 19, faced fines totalling 417 after admitting a string of driving offences and possessing cannabis.

But instead of making him pay up, Port Talbot magistrates offered to waive the fines - if he sat at the back of the court for 30 minutes until lunchtime.

Drivers' groups and worried civic leaders attacked the "stupidity" of the lenient sentence. And Jones, himself, later said : "I've been lucky."

Jones, of Briton Ferry, near Neath, admitted driving without a licence, insurance, or MOT after being stopped by police in a car in Port Talbot. He also pleaded guilty to possessing cannabis.

He was let off with a conditional discharge for the drugs offence, and was also banned from driving for six-months.

This teenager is a typical example of the stupidity of the law
Local councillor Ted Wheatley
He was fined 100 for driving without insurance, and magistrates were told he already owed 317 for previous offence of driving without road tax.

Magistrate Lynda Heycock told him to sit at the back of the room at 1240 GMT.

When they broke for lunch at 1315 GMT he was free to go - with his fines wiped clean.

Later he said: "I've been lucky with magistrates. But this is the last time in court for me - no more."

Road safety experts condemned the penalty as a "mockery".

Mark Christie, spokesman for the Association of British Drivers, said: "This is another case of magistrates making themselves look not very clever.

"The court is making a mockery of the offence by coming down on people who get caught by speed cameras while letting people off for far more serious offences."

Local councillor Ted Wheatley said: "There is just not enough social discipline in this country," he said.

"This teenager is a typical example of the stupidity of the law."


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