Officer's driving offence quashed

A 30-year-old police sergeant traffic offer jailed for five months for crashing his car at more than 110mph has been cleared of dangerous driving.Craig Bannister, of Briton Ferry, was bailed by the appeal court earlier this month after serving just 20 days.

The judges overturned the dangerous driving conviction, replacing it with one for careless driving.

The jail term was replaced by a 50 fine and a three-month driving ban, which the sergeant has already served.

Monday's ruling means Bannister is able to drive again.

His barrister, Nicholas Hilliard QC, argued successfully that Bannister was no ordinary motorist, but a highly-qualified police driver with years of experience, and the jury should have been told to take that into account when deciding whether he drove dangerously.

'Error of judgement'

Bannister, a driver with the South Wales force and the designated traffic supervisor for its western area, driving on the M4 near Swansea when his BMW 5 series car span out of control.

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

The officer had been responding to an emergency call when he accelerated to 120 mph, but continued to drive at a high speed after he was stood down from the incident, the original Cardiff Crown Court jury was told.

At the sentencing hearing in March, the judge said he took a "particularly serious" view of the offence, which could justify only immediate imprisonment.

However, the appeal court decided at a hearing in May that it was a case of "an error of judgement by an extremely experienced driver" and that a fine was the appropriate penalty.

Bannister 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, and that he was trying to find a safe place to turn off his blue lights after being stood down from the emergency call.

The three appeal court judges will give their reasons for their decision at a later date.