Aha! Comic cleared after finally remembering who borrowed car

COMEDIAN Steve Coogan was yesterday found not guilty of a driving offence after it emerged a friend was behind the wheel of his car when it was caught speeding.

The 46-year-old comic told a court it had “slipped my mind” that his friend was driving the Range Rover when it was flashed doing 39mph in a 30mph zone. Brighton Magistrates’ Court heard he was busy with TV and film work at the time as well as involved in suing News International and preparing for the Leveson Inquiry.

The Range Rover was caught speeding on the A259 at Kingsway in Hove, East Sussex, just before 11.30am on October 12 last year. Coogan, famed for his alter ego Alan Partridge, told magistrates he loaned vehicles out to friends, family and colleagues on a pool basis, and could not remember who he had loaned the Range Rover to until months later. The comedian said that at the time of the speeding offence he was on the telephone to the Guardian newspaper dictating an article and had later made stringent efforts to find out who was the driver.

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Prosecutors dropped the speeding charge against him and magistrates cleared him of failing to notify police about who was driving after saying the case against him had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

After receiving a letter about the offence in November, Coogan requested photographic evidence. But despite contacting “the usual suspects”, he was unable to establish who was behind the wheel.

Months later, after a court summons was sent to Coogan, it was recalled that his friend Jodie Bayly had been driving it, and he said the matter was immediately referred to the authorities. Ms Bayly, whom he has known for about eight years, had not borrowed any of his cars before or since, so she did not figure initially in his mind as being the driver, he told the court.

The offer from him to allow her to borrow a car came about after she mentioned she was going to hire a vehicle to take a trip to Stonehenge in Wiltshire while visiting Brighton. Once it transpired she was the driver of the Range Rover, she was apologetic and wrote a letter confirming she was behind the wheel.

Coogan, of Ovingdean, Brighton, said his insurance arrangements allowed him to loan his cars to any driver over the age of 25 with his permission.