Cole guilty of speeding despite paparazzi plea

Jan 5, 2010
Jonathan Harwood

Chelsea defender is the latest footballer to claim harassment as the reason for speeding

Celebrity footballers are often regarded as the new royalty, but Ashley Cole is the first since David Beckham a decade ago to attempt 'the Lady Di defence' to get off a speeding charge.

The Chelsea and England defender, who is married to pop star and TV presenter Cheryl Cole, was clocked driving his Lamborghini at 104mph in a 50mph zone in west London. When he was stopped, he said he knew he was travelling too fast but claimed he was trying to escape from paparazzi. He reportedly asked police: "Can't you do anything about these idiots that keep chasing me?"

In 1999, two years after the Princess of Wales died in a car crash after being chased by Parisian paparazzi, David Beckham won an appeal against an eight-month driving ban when he successfully argued that he had been driving at 76 mph in a 50 mph zone only in order to evade a photographer on his tail. A Crown Court Judge returned Beckham's driving licence, ruling that there were "special circumstances".

But Cole's argument did not cut any ice with Kingston magistrates who yesterday found him guilty of speeding. He will be sentenced later.

Since Beckham’s successful appeal, other footballers caught speeding have said it was because they were trying to escape the unwanted attention of fans rather than photographers.

Last year two Sunderland players, Grant Leadbitter and Anthony Stokes, both claimed they were speeding because they were scared that they were being chased, but were banned from driving anyway.

Midfielder Leadbitter tried to outrun a police car on the A1 in March fearing that he was being followed by a gang of Newcastle United fans, and Stokes was caught travelling at 126mph because he did not realise it was the police that were tailling him.

As for Ashley Cole, his erratic driving habits are well known to football fans. In his autobiography he claimed he once nearly crashed his car when he was told how little his former club, Arsenal, were offering to pay him. He wrote how he "nearly swerved off the road" after being told the Gunners were only offering a £55,000-a-week deal. The passage helped earn him the nickname 'Cashley'.

One of Cole's England colleagues, Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe, was also convicted of speeding yesterday. The player, who is already serving a driving ban, was fined £400 and given four points after being caught doing 45mph in a 30mph zone in a Land Rover in May. He offered no excuse.

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