Column Eight: Charges speedily dropped

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The Independent Online
A WEEK after Gerald Ratner got off with a pounds 160 fine and three-week driving ban for doing 114mph, another businessman has come face to face with the full majesty of the law. You may recall how the court deemed that Mr Ratner - who had been on a salary of pounds 350,000 and received a pounds 350,000 pay-off last year - had to make do with spending money of only pounds 20 a week. His fine was set accordingly.

Yesterday the Crown Prosecution Service dropped its speeding charge against Christian Vilaseca, who runs Jaguar in France and owns a mansion near Dufftown, Grampian.

The CPS decided it was 'not in the public interest' to proceed - to the annoyance of Lancashire police, who had allegedly clocked him doing 106mph on the M6 in a pounds 400,000 Jaguar XJ220 (top speed 212mph).

John Bates, chief crown prosecutor for Lancashire, explained: 'This was a case that turned on its own particular facts and circumstances - which included that Mr Vilaseca had spent one and a half hours in police custody.'

MUCH private disgruntlement in London Docklands among the 1,500 staff of Morgan Stanley. The American investment bank is considering introducing car park fees and charging fares on its private bus services. Till now both have been free in an attempt to appease staff who wend their weary way each day to Canary Wharf.

The bank has at least learnt from the poll tax fiasco and plans to take account of ability to pay: typists would pay lower fares than fat-cat bankers.

IS YOUR name Robert Owen? The Co-op Bank is giving personalised woolly jumpers to the first 100 credit card applicants with that moniker. Owen, a Victorian philanthropist, is considered the father of the co-op movement. The name-based stunt has the full approval of the managing director, who of course goes by the name of Terry Thomas.

THE ATTORNEY General may prosecute Hello, the soft- hitting magazine about the rich and famous, for contempt of court for an interview with Kevin and Pandora Maxwell, due to appear today. In a sympathetic article the couple open their hearts about Kevin's impending trial on fraud and theft charges.

Kevin McGinty, a solicitor in the Attorney General's office, said it would look closely at the magazine and take action if it thought the interview could influence a jury. 'The same rules apply whether an article prejudices the prosecution or the defence.'