Former minister is banned over drink-drive crash

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The Independent Online
The former Conservative minister Sir Nicholas Scott was banned from driving for a year and ordered to pay pounds 900 yesterday after a court heard that he trapped a baby boy between two cars after drinking alcohol at a party.

Sir Nicholas, MP for Chelsea, then left the scene of the accident in his west London constituency without knowing whether Thibault Perreard, aged three, had been injured.

"You had no idea what damage might have been caused to the car in front of you or what possible harm could have been caused to the child," Roger Davies, the magistrate at Horseferry Road court in London, told Sir Nicholas.

Sir Nicholas, 62, formerly Minister for the Disabled and a junior Northern Ireland Minister, pleaded guilty to driving with excess alcohol in his blood and was banned from driving for 12 months, fined pounds 200 and ordered to pay pounds 450 costs. He denied failing to stop after an accident but was found guilty and fined another pounds 250.

Peter Caton, for the prosecution, said that last June Sir Nicholas left a party at the Chelsea Farmers Market with his secretary and was about to drive off in a red Volvo automatic borrowed from Lady Ena Faure-Hawk, his mother-in-law. The car jumped forward and shunted a Volvo estate, trapping Thibault between this vehicle and another car. The boy was asleep in his buggy, which was being pushed by his parents who were standing between the two cars waiting to hail a taxi.

The boy's father, Yves Perreard, a Swiss banker, described how he tried to free his son as passers-by shouted and attempted to make Sir Nicholas pull his car back to release the child. He said he later tried to find the driver but could not. He said: "The defendant was in a trance state."

The court was told that after being freed Thibault was taken to hospital, where a doctor found he had some reddening on his lower back but was otherwise unhurt.

Police interviewed Sir Nicholas two hours after the accident at the nearby home of his doctor. They had received a telephone call to say that he was there waiting to be interviewed.

Constable Philip Logan said that Sir Nicholas told him he had drunk a couple of glasses of wine at the party and was later given a glass of whisky by his doctor. Tests showed that the MP had 98 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The legal limit for driving is 80 milligrams.

Sir Nicholas, of Battersea, south-west London, told the court he was not used to the car. It had pulled forward but he did not think anything serious had occurred. After being helped to reverse it, he went to see what had happened. He saw a child crying but was told by a paediatrician, who had been at the party, that the boy was not hurt. He said he patted the child on the head and walked to the nearby Conservative constituency headquarters to phone for police or an ambulance. He added: "I didn't think there was any doubt about my identity. I assumed people knew who I was. I had no reason to believe anyone was injured."

Sir Nicholas said he had found the party offices closed and had walked back to the scene to find people there excited and in a state of "confusion" so he decided to wait for police at his doctor's home. He declined to comment after the case yesterday.

Sir Nicholas, a leading Tory "wet", has been involved in controversy before. In 1994 he admitted that he misled MPs when he denied that his department had been involved in wrecking tactics designed to kill the Disability Bill.