Harriet Harman prosecuted for car offence

Labour Party Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman, speaks at the Labour Party Conference, in Brighton September 30, 2009. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - One of Britain’s most senior government ministers is to be prosecuted for motoring offences, including using a mobile phone while driving, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Harriet Harman, Labour deputy leader and a top lawyer, is accused of driving without due care and attention and using a hand-held phone when she was involved in an incident in Peckham, southeast London, in July.

“The Crown Prosecution Service has decided there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to prosecute ... Harriet Harman,” it said in a statement.

According to press reports, Harman a former Solicitor General, had collided with a parked car. She stopped briefly at the scene but then drove off without leaving details of her insurance company or her car’s registration.

If found guilty Harman faces fines of up to 6,000 pounds, could have penalty points imposed on her driving licence, and magistrates could ban her from driving.

Publicity surrounding the prosecution itself is likely to be of concern for Harman, generating embarrassment as Labour prepares for national parliamentary elections due by June 2010.

The opposition centre-right Conservatives are predicted to win the election, with polls putting them well ahead of Labour.

The law banning motorists from using hand-held phones while driving was brought in by the Labour government in 2003. Prosecutors have even argued that those found guilty of the offence should be jailed.

Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Stefano Ambrogi