Harman fined for careless driving

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Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman admitted driving without due care and attention today after she was involved in a parking accident.

The Cabinet Minister was fined £350, and ordered to pay £70 costs and a £15 victim surcharge at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Her driving licence was also endorsed with three points after her solicitor entered the guilty plea on her behalf.

It emerged that prosecutors considered charging Ms Harman with leaving the scene of an accident and failing to report it.

But the potentially more serious offences were not brought to court and a second charge of driving while using her mobile phone was withdrawn today.

The MP for Camberwell and Peckham did not attend today's hearing and instead attended a Cabinet meeting in nearby Downing Street.

She was at the centre of a police inquiry after she reversed her Rover 75 into a parked car at low speed in Bushey Hill Road, Camberwell, south east London.

The 59-year-old was seen hitting the car by its owner who was watching from the window of his flat nearby and called police.

The bump took place at about 10pm on July 3 last year as Ms Harman returned from visiting people made homeless by a blaze at a block of flats in which six died.

Prosecutor Michael Jennings said Ms Harman was trying to manoeuvre out from between two parked cars when the collision occurred.

He said Ms Harman was using her mobile phone at the time. No damage was caused to either car and no insurance claims were made.

Solicitor Mark Haslam, who represented Ms Harman, asked for the "maximum credit" for his client's guilty plea which was made when the other matters were dropped.

Mr Haslam said: "This is a parking manoeuvre. It takes place in a very short timespan. It takes place at a very slow speed, less than 5mph.

"There is no injury, no damage and no insurance claim by either party in relation to either vehicle."

District Judge Nicholas Evans gave Ms Harman seven days to pay. No details of her financial circumstances were revealed in court.

A spokeswoman for the Cabinet Minister said: "Ms Harman fully accepts the court's judgment.

"Ms Harman is pleased that the potential charges of leaving the scene of an accident without exchanging particulars and failing to report an accident to the police have been dropped.

"Ms Harman is pleased that it has been established that this was not a 'hit and run' accident as portrayed in some media reports. It was a parking incident and no damage was done.

"Ms Harman has pointed out that she was in her constituency attending the emergency reception centre for residents who had been evacuated from the fire at Lakanal House in Camberwell."

The case is particularly embarrassing for Ms Harman as she is a QC, Privy Council member and former Solicitor General.

The court heard that she already has six penalty points on her licence after being caught speeding twice in 30mph zones.

Motorists who accumulate 12 points on their licence face a ban - Ms Harman now has a total of nine.

Careless driving can be punished with a fine of up to £5,000, a licence endorsement of up to nine points and a driving ban.