Miles Away

When I was a teenager, my father was stopped by the police for speeding on Banstead Road, Banstead. He was doing 53mph in a 30mph limit.

He had no excuse, so he said: “I am sorry officer. I was miles away.” The officer duly wrote this in his notebook.

A few days later a court summons arrived, but the charge was that he had been speeding on Banstead Road, Carshalton, some five miles away.

My father’s first impulse was that this was just a technicality, and that he had no choice but to plead guilty. But he decided to consult a neighbour who was a solicitor, and invited me to go with him.

Our neighbour was the Town Clerk of Sutton. He was a distinguished gentleman who had been the pilot of a Lancaster during the war. His plane had been shot down over occupied France, and he bailed out with a bullet through his foot. He was left with a permanent limp. He studied law while a prisoner of war in Germany.

As we crossed the road my father explained that, as a public servant, a Town Clerk did not earn a lot but had job security and a good pension.

My father showed him the summons, explained the situation and asked if he should plead guilty. The Town Clerk said that, since my father had not been in Carshalton that day, he was not guilty of the offence as charged.  He drafted a response to the summons for my father to send to the police, saying that he had been miles away.

I found this an interesting way of thinking, and for the first time started to consider if I should become a lawyer.

My father heard heard no more from the police. Presumably an embarrassed PC dropped the case rather than admit an elementary mistake.

Chris Thorpe

Chris Thorpe is a respected independent lawyer in the upstream oil and gas industry, and an established lecturer and author. Chris has a LLB in law from Magdalene College, Cambridge and trained as a barrister in London. He worked for eight years' as an in-house lawyer for BP and Marathon. Since 1991, Chris has run his own upstream legal practice, CPTL, which has acted for many upstream clients. He has extensive experience of international upstream transactions, principally in the North Sea, the FSU, Africa and the Middle East. Chris has spoken at many UK and International Conferences and Seminars, both public and in-house. His most popular current lecture is Fundamental of Upstream Petroleum Agreements, a two-day course with accompanying book.