Steve Coogan has escaped a lengthy driving ban after successfully arguing that a new series featuring his Alan Partridge character could not be filmed on public transport.
The comedian was clocked driving his Porsche at 36mph in a 30mph zone close to his mansion in East Sussex, earning him a three-point endorsement on his driving licence. Because he already had nine points from previous offences he faced an automatic six-month ban.
Magistrates in Crawley instead decided to ban him from driving for two months after hearing that a lengthier time off the road would force him to cancel an Alan Partridge travelogue series he is set to make for the BBC.
Coogan told the court that in the series, which he is due to film in October, Partridge drives to various locations around Britain meeting people: “I’m producing a travelogue follow-on TV series where I’m basically driving around Britain. The whole nature of the series is that it is a travelogue and it’s an artistic thing that he drives and that defines his character.”
The actor argued that his Partridge character, who in one series drove barefoot to Dundee after gorging on Toblerone and owned a Lexus he described as “the Japanese Mercedes”, was inherently wedded to the road. “You couldn’t put him on a train because that not who he is. It’s part of his character that he drives,” he said.
Coogan told the court that the camera shots could not be faked: “You have cameras mounted on the bonnet then you have other shots where you have a camera mounted on a separate car filming the person in the car driving.”
He said his Baby Cow production company has lined up between 15 and 20 staff to work on the series and they would struggle to find alternative work if he cancelled at short notice.
The court heard the actor had a history of speeding offences and had attended a drivers awareness course just two months ago.
Coogan admitted his driving record was not good, but said he had now taken steps to change his behaviour: “I’m trying to slow down and I try to observe the average speed limits that have come in. I tend to drive the one, the car, with the automatic cruise control that will keep me within the speed.”
Ann Schroder, the chair of the magistrates bench, said they had taken into account the “exceptional hardship” it would cause other TV professionals if the series had to be cancelled. She told Coogan: “We have also taken into account your driving record, which is not very good.”
Magistrates gave him three penalty points and disqualified him from driving for two months. They also fined him £750 with £85 court costs and a £75 victim surcharge.
Coogan is a noted motoring enthusiast who has owned a succession of cars including Ferraris, Mazdas, Range Rovers and Porsches.
He escaped a driving ban after saying he was unable to remember who had been driving when his car was allegedly clocked speeding in Hove. He was fined £670 and banned from driving for 28 days in February 2016 after being caught speeding at almost twice the limit in Brighton.