Anger over judge's driving comments

A DISTRICT judge who yesterday described motorists who kept to speed limits as “a bit of a nuisance” has incurred the wrath of road campaigners who branded his remarks “utterly stupid”.

A DISTRICT judge who yesterday described motorists who kept to speed limits as “a bit of a nuisance” has incurred the wrath of road campaigners who branded his remarks “utterly stupid”.

Judge David Cooper made his controversial comments at Lowestoft Magistrates Court while sentencing Mathew Musgrove for careless driving and failing to stop and report an accident on the infamous A14 Haughley Bends.

Musgrove, 27, admitted colliding with a professional driver - Andy Ellis - after Mr Ellis slowed down to 50mph on the bends, a notorious accident black spot, at about 3pm on January 28 this year.

The court heard how Musgrove, of St Andrews Street South in Bury St Edmunds, “tailgated” Mr Ellis, who holds the specialist public sector vehicle licence, before undertaking him and remerging in front of him, clipping the front of Mr Ellis's car.

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The incident has left Mr Ellis suffering with stress and unable to carry out his work as a driver.

But before sentencing Musgrove, Judge Cooper said: “People who stick rigidly to the speed limit are a bit of a nuisance.”

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He went on to declare: “We all do behave badly on the road - I do, you do.”

Musgrove's victim Mr Ellis, also of Bury St Edmunds, was not in court when Judge Cooper made his remarks about law-abiding motorists, but after the case called on all motorists to take notice of both their speed and the driving conditions.

He said: “I am glad that it is all over. I hope this is a salient reminder as to just how dangerous that section of road is. Why can't people just slow down? Nothing can be that important.”

Mr Ellis, 38, also pointed to the recent spate of fatal accidents on the A14 as proof of the importance of courteous and thoughtful driving.

But Judge Cooper last night came in for strong criticism from RoadPeace, a national charity for the victims of road crashes.

Spokesman Ian Tidy, said: “I think this is absolutely horrific. Most of us have experienced having people come up behind us, flashing their lights, and other unpleasant manifestations of road rage.

“Judges are entitled to their opinion, but that opinion should not be aired in court, particularly when it is likely to cause offence to such a wide range of people.

“This was an extremely unwise comment to make, and I think this judge should be admonished.

“It is morally wrong, and completely and utterly stupid. One expects something better from a judge.

”RoadPeace and a number of other organisations have worked hard to get the Government to agree to put through legislation that will allow the judiciary to punish offending drivers more strongly, and more in keeping with the wishes of the population, and then we have a judge who is as good as saying it is okay to break the law.

“He is not a good ambassador for his profession, in my view.”

Jo Stagg, spokeswoman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) declined to comment on Judge Cooper's statement, but said: “Speed limits are a legal requirement and by exceeding the limit you could be a danger, not only to yourself, but to other road users.

“Recent research carried out by the Department of Transport shows that exceeding the speed limit, or going too fast for the conditions, were reported as a contributory factor in 26 per cent of fatal accidents, which accounted for 793 deaths in Great Britain in 2005.”

Musgrove, a separated father-of-one who currently works as a ground worker for a Stowmarket-based construction firm, was banned from driving for 30 days, fined £500 and ordered to pay £200 towards prosecution costs.

Besides his controversial comments, Judge Cooper told Musgrove his driving was “really catastrophically bad” and “thoroughly irresponsible.”

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