Speeding ambulance driver pleads his case

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The Independent Online

An ambulance driver charged with speeding at 104mph as he delivered a liver for a transplant operation insisted yesterday he was acting on an "emergency" and warned that his case could set a dangerous precedent.

Mike Fergusoncould lose his licence, and his job, if the prosecution against him goes ahead. He was driving an official car with blue lights when he was clocked as he took the liver from St James's Hospital in Leeds to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge in the early hours of 16 January.

The case against him was due to be opened at Grantham magistrates' court today, although his lawyers are understood to have asked for an adjournment. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is unlikely to oppose the move.

The prosecution has caused uproar, with unions warning that lives could be lost if emergency drivers are not exempt from speed laws.

Mr Ferguson said: "I wouldn't dream of speeding unless it was an emergency but with some organ transplants, time really is of the essence." Mr Ferguson, 56, a senior ambulance driver with West Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service, has an unblemished record of more than 30 years' service. The A1 has a 70mph limit and he was charged by Lincolnshire Police. Cambridgeshire Police are understood to have decided to take no action against him.

Mr Ferguson said he was not told about the patient waiting for the liver, only that it was an emergency. "It doesn't justify going at any speed, but it justifies going at any safe speed."

Mr Ferguson's union, the GMB, has said lives could be lost if emergency drivers have to obey speed limits. The police say ambulance drivers transporting patients are exempt under the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984, but that transplant vehicles are not.

The GMB has written to the Home Secretary, and Unison, the biggest union representing ambulance workers, has called for an urgent review of legislation to take the burden of responsibility off individuals in life-or-death incidents.