NORWICH, England -- Safety campaigners criticized a "woefully inadequate" 12-month driving ban given Monday to a man caught using two cell phones as he drove along a main road in the UK.
Police spotted David Secker, 34, holding one handset to his right ear as he appeared to use a second telephone in his left hand to send a text message while driving in Blofield in Norfolk, east England.
An officer said that once he had stopped the jobless driver, he was kept waiting while the suspect finished his conversation before he would talk to the police patrol, The (London) Times reported.
Denis King, for the prosecution, told Norwich Magistrates' Court, "He was seen holding a mobile phone to his right ear and as he moved closer the officer saw he was holding another phone in his other hand as though he was texting."
Secker denied that he had been steering his Vauxhall Tigra with his knees, causing it to swerve across the road. In mitigation, Simon Nicholls said his client had been reading a phone number from one phone to an acquaintance with whom he was speaking on the other device, holding the first handset and the top of the steering wheel with one hand.
"We hear about people driving while eating apples and doing all kinds of stupid things. He accepts he made a mistake and will learn from it," Nicholls said.
Secker, of Norwich, was found guilty in his absence at an earlier hearing of using a mobile while driving, having no insurance and not being in a position to have proper control of his vehicle.
He received eight penalty points for driving without insurance, three points for not being in proper control and a further three points for mobile phone use. In addition to a year's ban, he was fined $245. Magistrates said they would have fined him $820 but reduced the fine after learning that he was on benefits.
Road safety groups were furious at the sentence. Caroline Perry, of Brake, the road safety charity, said the punishment was woefully inadequate -- adding it was "yet another example of someone who has repeatedly committed offenses that pose a significant threat to human life being let off with a slap on the wrist."