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Driver read paper at 80mph

CHARLES SLORACH was so engrossed reading his newspaper as he drove at 80mph up the outside lane of a motorway, he did not realise he had overtaken a police car.

Yesterday, Slorach, whose high-speed read during the rush hour was recorded on video by the crew of an unmarked patrol car, was banned from driving for two years and fined pounds 850.

Sergeant Robert Murphy told Stirling Sheriff Court that he and a colleague had been in full uniform as Slorach's green, P-reg, company Vauxhall Vectra drew alongside. But Slorach, 32, was so interested in his copy of the Daily Record he had not seen them.

"I looked across and I was astounded to see he was reading a newspaper," said Sgt Murphy. "It was fully open, tabloid-sized, across the steering wheel and he certainly appeared to be reading it. He was continually glancing down in the direction of the newspaper and then back up at the road as he was driving along."

The officer said he had a clear view of the inside of the car. "He was literally next to me as he passed - I could tell you what page he was reading.

"Although there wasn't an accident, reading a newspaper at 80mph in the fast lane of a motorway had a potential for disaster. If anything had happened in front of him ... when he was glancing down at the paper he'd have had no chance whatsoever of avoiding it."

Slorach pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving on the M9 near Stirling last September. He said he picked up the paper to get at his sunglasses, which had been lying below it on the passenger seat.

"I don't have the most tidy of cars," he told the court. "I was looking for my sunglasses and I was about to look for cigarettes, but I couldn't find them."

However, after watching the video, Sheriff Alexander Eccles found him guilty. He will now lose his pounds 20,000-a year job as an accounts manager with a wholesale grocers.

After the court case, the AA condemned Slorach's behaviour. "This was amazingly foolish," said Andrew Howard, head of road safety. "It's one of the things the new Highway Code has been trying to clamp down on."

The conviction comes almost seven months after a woman aged 36 was fined at the same court for driving while fixing her hair.