A driver who was caught speeding at 173mph walked free from court yesterday. Property developer Nick Harrison, 38, was allegedly clocked at the fastest speed ever recorded by police in his Porsche 911 Turbo on the M25. But charges against him were thrown out because of a technicality.
The police officers in pursuit of Mr Harrison were unable to keep up and briefly lost sight of him before he slowed down. Despite speaking to him at the scene and noting his name, address and credit card as identification, police failed to mention this in court.
His defence argued the police had not proved he was the driver. The chairman of the bench agreed and threw out the case.
The news was greeted with fury by road campaigners.
Brigitte Choudhry, spokesman for Roadpeace, said: “Driving at 173mph is totally reckless. This man had no consideration for the safety of himself or others, it is a miracle no one was injured or killed … Can police really be expected to risk killing themselves by pursuing a car at break-neck speed?”
Mr Harrison was driving between junctions 8 and 9 of the motorway near Leatherhead, Surrey, on November 27, 2003, when officers clocked his speed on a laser gun. They tried to pursue him but momentarily lost sight of him. Once he had stopped they spoke to him and took his details. He was later charged with speeding, dangerous driving and having no insurance – to which he pleaded not guilty.
Two police officers gave evidence at Woking magistrates court yesterday but they did not spell out that they had noted Mr Harrison's details at the scene. They also admitted losing sight of the car, which has a top speed of 190mph.
Mr Harrison's solicitor Nick Freeman – who has helped a number of celebrity clients, including Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson beat motoring charges – had seen the officers' notebook detailing the incident. But he argued that because it had not been read out during the hearing, the court had not heard ‘sufficient evidence' to convict him. He said the prosecution had not proved who was driving the car and because the officers had lost sight of it they could not prove Mr Harrison's was the same vehicle as the one caught by the laser gun.
Mr Harrison was not even called to give evidence and was told that all charges against him were dropped.
The previous highest speed recorded by police on Britain's roads was 148mph for motorcyclist Andrew Osborne near Buckingham in March 2003.