The peer who organised the Queen’s funeral has been banned from driving for six months. The ban was issued despite the Duke of Norfolk claiming he needs his licence to arrange the King’s upcoming coronation.
Edward Fitzalan-Howard, who is also the Earl Marshal, 65, pleaded guilty at Lavender Hill Magistrates’ Court on Monday to using his mobile phone behind the wheel.
The Duke, who is charged with orchestrating the state opening of Parliament, was stopped by police on April 7 after driving his BMW through a red light in Battersea, south-west London, prosecutor Jonathan Bryan said.
Mr Bryan told magistrates said the Duke told officers he had “not been aware of going through the red light but accepted this was because he was using his mobile phone” to communicate with his wife.
The court heard the Duke had already racked up nine penalty points on his driving licence from two previous speeding offences in 2019, meaning a further six points would instigate a ban.
The Duke of Norfolk argued he would suffer “exceptional hardship” if he was disqualified.
He gave evidence for more than 30 minutes in secret after magistrates ruled the media and public should be excluded from court for reasons of “national security”. His lawyers argued that “sensitive” details about the coronation should remain private, which the magistrates granted.
After the media were allowed to return to court, the Duke’s lawyer said: “He has given quite a bit of information about what is going to be involved in this coronation.
“He must be mobile to achieve what he needs to achieve in this regard.”
She continued: “His Grace needs to be able to organise what is a huge event.
“He needs to travel to all of the jurisdictions of the UK, to located venues, speak to people and encourage people to become involved in what is going to be another world spectacular.”
The lawyer added: “It is an extremely peculiar set of circumstances at a really crucial point in the history of this nation with the one man who was responsible for not only the funeral last week but the coronation of King Charles III.
“It is a huge undertaking and it is the responsibility of this one man at this time.”
However a bench of magistrates, chaired by Judith Way, endorsed his licence with six points and banned him from driving for six months.
Ms Way said: “We accept that this a unique case because of the defendant’s role in society and in particular in relation to the King’s coronation.
“The hardship needs to be exceptional and although we find inconvenience may be caused, we don’t find it exceptional hardship.”
The Duke was also fined £800 and ordered to pay a further £400 in other costs.
More to follow…