60mph seat swap driver is spared prison

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A DRIVER found guilty of swapping seats at 60mph while carrying a coachload of Pompey fans is appealing his conviction.

Peter Williams was a relief driver on the 50-seater Vision Travel coach that was transporting fans north for a match at Middlesbrough when the incident happened.

Fellow driver Paul Booker got up from the wheel on the A34 near Newbury saying he needed to go to the toilet, and Williams took over.

Graham Heath, prosecuting at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court, said: ‘The evidence was that Mr Booker gets up from his seat.

‘As he starts to exit his position his knee catches the steering wheel and the coach veers to the left.

‘I think again, as you perhaps might expect, this all happens very quickly.

‘The reality is initially Mr Williams has his back to the windscreen and he then gets into the driving position.

‘He’s able to grab the steering wheel, correct that left veer, albeit as a result of that correction the coach then veers off to the right.’

No-one was hurt in the incident, which happened on August 6 last year, but frightened passengers raised the alarm.

Vision Travel acted quickly and sent another driver to meet the coach at the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough.

Both Williams and Booker were sacked after the incident.

Williams, 60, of Gorley Court, Havant, had denied a charge of dangerous driving.

But he was found guilty following a trial at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court.

Addressing magistrates, Edward Jackson, defending Williams, said: ‘One shudders to think what the consequences would have been if there had been a complete loss of control.

‘I think we would have been talking about multiple fatalities, so whatever Mr Williams did that was right or wrong doesn’t deter at all that it was ultimately his control of the vehicle that saved the day, which is rather ironic as he stands before you convicted of dangerous driving.’

Williams was sentenced to 16 weeks in jail suspended for 18 months and banned from driving for two years.

However the magistrates suspended the driving ban until the outcome of an appeal hearing.

Williams was also given a curfew ordering him not to leave his home between 8pm and 6am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for four months.

His former colleague Paul Booker, from Arragon Court, Waterlooville, admitted dangerous driving at an earlier hearing at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court.

He was jailed for six months suspended for two years and told to pay £85 costs.

Booker was ordered not to leave home between 8pm and 7am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for three months and was banned from driving for two-and-a-half years.