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Loophole lawyer cowed by new police tactic

Posted by: Laurence Simons 16/02/15

An 1872 law concerning cows and steam engines has been used to outflank defence lawyer Nick Freeman. If there is one thing some lawyers in the UK are famous for, it is finding interesting and often obscure loopholes in the law to help apparently guilty people get off the hook.

Of course, for some that is not a good thing, until, naturally enough, they need such help themselves.

The best-known lawyer for this kind of thing, known as "Mr Loophole", is Manchester-based Nick Freeman. His successes are well-documented. However, it appears he may now have met his match.

Events manager Paul Crawford found himself in trouble during last year's British Grand Prix at Silverstone when he was caught by police riding a golf buggy across a campsite while over the limit.

While he did not get in the way of Lewis Hamilton and Co, he was charged with drink-driving.

Mr Freeman was brought in to represent him in court and argued that the charge could not stand because the buggy was not a real vehicle, having no seat belt, indicators, plastic cover or horn.

However, the police cunningly used a law drawn up as part of the Licensing Act of 1872 concerning carriages, steam engines, horses and even cows to cover those "unfit" while riding them due to drunkenness.

Mr Freeman was stumped and the case was settled before it came to trial. While no mandatory penalty could be imposed, Mr Crawford had to pay a fine of £165, court costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £20, in addition to getting a criminal record.

Afterwards, Mr Freeman said: "This prosecution was a terrible waste of time and trouble." It certainly was - for him.

While Mr Freeman went on to accuse the police of treating the public as "cash cows" (no ironic pun intended - or was there?) there will be many who argue that this is just as well, since drink-driving is no trivial matter - at least when it involves something that moves a bit faster than a golf buggy.

Indeed, prosecution lawyers may be particularly heartened. It shows that, perhaps, they too can find a way of using the law in a smart way that ensures prosecutions are not prevented by technicalities.