Legal get-out clauses
The casebook of Mr Loophole
Freeman: escape expert to the stars
Nick Freeman, aka Mr Loophole, has built his reputation as solicitor
to the stars who fall foul of motoring law, writes Peter Hall.
Recently he has begun making his expertise available to ordinary drivers.
Keep On Driving is a subscription service which for £4.99 a month
provides legal advice to drivers stopped by the police or who have
received a fixed penalty. A quick study of Freeman’s most famous
cases provides a guide to the kind of defences that can be mounted.
Duress of circumstance
In 1999 David Beckham was charged with speeding in his Ferrari.
Freeman argued that at the time he was being chased by paparazzi
and was forced to drive with excessive speed to avoid death or injury.
He lost the case at the magistrates’ court but took it to the
crown court. The judge upheld the guilty verdict but because of
the circumstances revoked the three penalty points that had been imposed.
“Duress of circumstance can be used in many situations,
” says Freeman. “You could be driving on a motorway and
someone is driving too close to you; you might be afraid
of being carjacked; another driver might be driving like an
idiot. The law enables you to put distance between you and
them. You can’t deny your driving but you can put forward
a reason for it.”
Sir Alex Ferguson was charged with driving on the hard shoulder
of a motorway — an offence that carries a three-point penalty.
Freeman successfully argued that the Manchester United manager
had been suffering from diarrhoea and needed to be able to
leave the car quickly.
“I said to the court that he had two choices, one of which was
particularly unpalatable,” says Freeman. “Once that is raised,
the prosecution has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that it is
not true. The key point with this defence is that you can only
argue it if you felt unwell only after you had first joined
that particular road and not on the journey as a whole.
“Many conditions are a valid argument for this defence as long
as you perceive it subjectively to be an emergency at the time.
The defence can also cover things such as dangerous driving.”
Unable to provide a sample
Ronnie O’Sullivan, the former world snooker champion, was
charged with failure to provide a urine sample for laboratory
analysis. Freeman successfully argued that because O’Sullivan
had been suffering from depression he was medically unable to do so.
“The newspaper headline was, ‘Too stressed to wee’, but there
was a medical reason why he couldn’t.
“From a legal perspective I don’t have to prove this was true,
I have to raise it as an issue,” says Freeman.
“Once we raise it — with expert medical evidence — the prosecution
have to disprove it with medical evidence.”
Ashley Fitton was breathalysed after an evening out with her
husband and found to be over the limit. Freeman argued that
the former model had been coerced into driving by her husband,
who had a History
of violence and abuse.
“Legally you cannot be found guilty if you have been forced
into doing something. The key point is that there has to be
a real threat of violence,” says Freeman.
Failure to prove ID
Failing to prove the accused was behind the wheel is one of Freeman’s
most successful tactics. He used it in the case of golfer Colin
Montgomerie, who had been caught speeding after a night out.
“In court the policeman didn’t identify the accused, he referred
to a Mr Montgomerie, but that could have been anyone. There was
no date of birth given, no address given and no dock
identification,” says Freeman.
“This sort of mistake by the prosecution is more of a technicality
but it is more common than you think. You should always be
identified with name, date of birth, address and ideally a visual ID.”Times Online - Click Me