Ed Balls pleads guilty to driving offence

SHADOW chancellor Ed Balls has been ordered to pay more than £1,000 in fines and costs and has had five points put on his driving licence after admitting failing to stop after a minor road collision.

Labours Shadow Chancellor accidentally reversed into a parked car and left the scene. Picture: John Devlin

A district judge said the incident in Mr Balls’s Morley and Outwood constituency, in West Yorkshire, was “at the lower end of the scale of seriousness” and rejected the option of a total driving ban.

The former schools secretary touched the bumper of another car as he was moving out of a car park next to the Labour Unity Club, in Morley in April, causing minor damage.

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He already had three points on his licence after he went through a red light in central London in 2012.

Mr Balls did not attend the hearing at Leeds Magistrates’ Court today.

District Judge Roy Anderson read a letter from Mr Balls’s solicitors admitting the offences of failing to stop and failing to report an accident.

He said Mr Balls’s account was that he did not realise at the time that he had caused any damage to the parked Peugeot 308 as he moved out of the car park in his Ford Mondeo.

The district judge ordered the shadow chancellor to pay a £900 fine plus a £90 Government surcharge and £85 prosecution costs.

Mr Anderson said: “Motorists who leave the scene of accidents without stopping to exchange particulars will, in serious cases, face a penalty which includes disqualification from driving.

“This, however, is a case very much at the lower end of the scale of seriousness.

“No injury was caused to any person and the damage to the car was, in reality, very slight.

“While Mr Balls was careless to a minor degree in colliding with the parked car, it’s quite clear that if he had stopped at the time to exchange details, this matter would never have been the subject of criminal proceedings.”

Earlier, Mr Anderson was told the offences carried a possible prison sentence.

Smiling, the district judge said: “I have been sent a bundle of paperwork and, having read it, that would be a most unlikely penalty.”

After the incident on April 5, Mr Balls said he had been negotiating a “tight spot” in the drive next to the Labour club.

He said: “The turn took five or seven points and I was aware that at one point the bumpers of the two cars touched.

“I park there all the time in what is a relatively narrow drive. But until I was contacted the following Wednesday, I had no awareness at all that there had been any damage to the other car. As soon as I was made aware of what had happened, I took full responsibility for any damage caused.

“I have written to the owner of the other car to say I was terribly sorry and to reimburse the owner concerned for the necessary repair. I have contacted our insurance company in the usual way.”

The offence of failing to stop after an accident attracts five to 10 penalty points, driving disqualification, a fine of up to £5,000 or, in the most serious cases, a jail sentence of up to six months.

Mr Balls was given three points on his licence for driving through a red light on the Embankment in central London in December 2012, the court heard.

He was also caught speeding in West Yorkshire, for which he paid a fine and attended a speed awareness course rather than accept penalty points.

In 2010 Mr Balls said he had behaved ‘’stupidly’’ after being caught talking on his mobile phone while driving - although the points he received on that occasion have lapsed.