Page last updated at 13:12 GMT, Wednesday, 10 June 2009 14:12 UK

Officer's speed sentence quashed

Craig Bannister
Craig Bannister's sentence was quashed by the appeal court

A traffic officer jailed for dangerous driving has had his prison sentence quashed by the Court of Appeal.

Sergeant Craig Bannister, 30, of Briton Ferry, was sentenced to five months in March after earlier being found guilty by crashing his car at 113mph.

He served 20 days before he was released on bail in April pending an appeal against conviction.

Three judges adjourned his conviction challenge, but ruled a custodial sentence should not have been imposed.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, who was sitting with two other judges in London, said a fine should have been imposed instead.

Lord Judge told Bannister, who was present in the public gallery of the London court, that his appeal against conviction would be considered at a later date.

This was a case of an error of judgment by an extremely experienced driver
Mr Justice Owen

But he informed him: "We have quashed the sentence of imprisonment, so that means you will not go back to prison today."

The judges ruled that a "substantial" fine would have been the appropriate penalty following his conviction.

However, taking into account the fact that he had served time in jail, they imposed a "nominal" £50 penalty which will also be quashed if he succeeds in his conviction challenge.

Bannister, who qualified as an advanced police driver a month before the accident, was driving on the M4 near Swansea when his BMW 5 series spun out of control.

He suffered minor injuries when the car flew through the air on the night of January 13, 2008, after hitting water at 113mph.

'Exemplary' character

At the original trial, Cardiff Crown Court heard that Bannister was stood down from an emergency call shortly before joining the motorway, but continued to drive at high speeds, reaching more than 120mph.

Bannister, who earned £35,000 a year as a traffic officer, was described as being of previous "exemplary" character and earned commendations for his work with South Wales Police.

During his trial he claimed his speed was appropriate for the weather conditions.

He admitted the crash was his fault but denied driving dangerously despite the heavy rain and spray, claiming he was trying to find a safe place to turn off his blue lights after being stood down.

Announcing the court's reasons for quashing the prison sentence, Mr Justice Owen said: "This was a case of an error of judgment by an extremely experienced driver.

"We do not consider that this was an offence that justified an immediate sentence of imprisonment. In our judgment the appropriate penalty would have been financial."



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