Steve Claridge guilty of dangerous driving

Daily Echo:

FORMER Pompey footballer Steve Claridge was today found guilty of dangerous driving.

A jury at Coventry Crown Court took one hour and 45 minutes to decide that his driving on the M42 motorway on December 30, 2006, was dangerous.

The soccer pundit, who lives in Fareham, was pulled over by an unmarked police car on the southbound carriageway between junctions 4 and 3, after repeatedly undertaking other vehicles on the road, Coventry Crown Court heard yesterday.

The court was told that the ex-footballer drove at speeds of around 100mph in ''treacherous'' conditions.

Claridge had denied reaching such speeds, telling jurors he was driving at ''slightly in excess of 70mph'', and was trying to leave the motorway to find a toilet.

He also denied that it was raining at the time of the alleged offence.

He told the court: ''It certainly wasn't dangerous. It wasn't the best bit of driving I have ever done but it wasn't dangerous.''

Nigel Wilkins, prosecuting, told the jury yesterday that Claridge drove at high speed on wet roads, repeatedly switching lanes and causing other drivers to ''brake sharply in order to let him in''.

It was, he said, a ''consistent piece of dangerous driving''.

Pc Geoff Bell, one of the two uniformed officers to pull Claridge over, told the court he noticed Claridge coming up behind him in his rear view mirror and was concerned about his speed, adding: ''He would have been travelling at approximately 100mph in order to catch up with us quite quickly.''

Pc Keith Dyson estimated Claridge's speed at ''100mph or more'' and added that it was dark at the time of the incident, which was around 6.40pm, and glare from headlights and brake lights had reduced visibility.

The court heard from both officers that Claridge, driving a silver Peugeot 307, was at one point ''straddling'' two lanes as he attempted to move from the middle lane into the fast lane.

Pc Bell said he illegally overtook three cars on the nearside, including the unmarked police car, which was travelling at around 85mph.

When told that he may face prosecution for dangerous driving, Claridge told officers: ''I'll lose my job,'' the court heard.

Both officers described 42-year-old Claridge ''jumping up and down'' on the hard shoulder when he was pulled over.

Pc Dyson said: ''As I started speaking to him, he started jumping up and down on the hard shoulder, holding his crotch and acting like a child who is desperate to go to the toilet.

''He indicated that he was desperate for the toilet and was trying to find the services.'' He added: ''He continued to jump up and down in what I deemed to be an embarrassing action.'' The officer said he initially told Claridge he could not urinate at the side of the road because of the high volume of traffic, but later relented, allowing him to go down a grass embankment to relieve himself.

Following the verdict the court heard that Claridge already has nine points on his driving licence.

He was fined and given three points on November 1, 2005 for ''failing to give information as to the identity of the driver'', Mr Wilkins said.

He was also fined and given three points in August of the same year for a similar offence.

On December 29, 2005 he was issued with a fixed penalty notice for exceeding the speed limit on a motorway and given a further three penalty points, the court heard.

Adjourning sentencing until next month, Judge Peter Carr said he considered the dangerous driving conviction ''a serious matter'' and imposed an interim disqualification, banning Claridge from driving immediately.

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