"Mr Loophole" has been arrested. He has been released on bail, but such developments seem to be bad news not merely for the man himself – though it should be noted that he has roundly declared his innocence – but yours truly, too.
Not that I am a celebrity and, therefore, one of Mr Loophole’s typical clients, but because, mindful of his avowed aim to help the common man keep his driving licence as much as his uncommon brethren, I had planned to avail myself of his services come the day that my points tally ever escalated a little too dangerously. That day has come, but I fear that I may be disbarred from joining the various luminaries who return to the wheel courtesy of Mr L.
Nick Freeman, aka Mr Loophole, is one of the UK’s most visible solicitors. A criminal lawyer by trade, he began to carve out a highly lucrative niche in driving offences after representing Sir Alex Ferguson in 1999. Sir Alex was accused of driving on the hard shoulder of a motorway, but Mr Freeman successfully argued that he had an upset stomach and was merely scouting for a toilet. Other high-profile triumphs followed. Snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan was acquitted on charges of failing to provide a urine sample (he was "too depressed"), and David Beckham escaped a lengthy driving ban for speeding in his Ferrari 550 Maranello when Mr Freeman argued that he was evading the paparazzi.
Mr Loophole lives in Knutsford, near Manchester, an area replete with wealthy Premier League footballers. He has also represented the far from impoverished Wayne Rooney, as well as golfer Colin Montgomerie and supermodel Caprice. In the latter case, his soubriquet did not yield success. Ms Bourret left court with a 12-month driving ban after a district judge decided that she had failed to prove that she should be excused from a ban because of special medical circumstances.
But Mr Freeman does not confine himself to celebrities. The former prosecutor assisted a policeman charged with drink driving, arguing that police at the officer’s own station had not followed correct procedures when arresting him, and proclaimed his intent to assist Joe Public with the launch of www.freemankeepondriving.com at the beginning of the year. For a just £99 a year – the price of a few of Roy Keane’s favourite prawn sandwiches – members can utilise the expertise of Mr Loophole and other similarly skilled operatives.
"Keep On Driving is a national legal service dedicated to supporting private and business motorists for whom the loss of a driving licence could have devastating consequences. Where possible the service also aims to minimise fines imposed."
So says Mr Loophole’s website, and I can’t deny that when I heard about this, I filed it away at the back of my mind. Over the last five years, I have averaged between 20,000 and 25,000 miles a year, a consequence both of not living in London yet needing to be there often and my decision to write an intensively research-based book. The latter, about surfing in the UK and Ireland, has sent me and my trusty Subaru to places as diverse as the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall, the pretty village of Llangennith in Wales and the Spartan beauty of Tynemouth on the north east coast of England.
En route, there are speed cameras galore, but sometimes, having driven for some seven hours non-stop, the urge to arrive is overpowering. The accelerator pedal can be depressed too far, too easily, and lo and behold, I have another three points.
And so it was on a recent trip to Wales. One of those sneaky vans perched atop of a bridge loomed into view, and before I could shout "Mr Loophole!" its hidden camera had done its worst. I thought no more of the incident until the Summons arrived 10 days ago. This coincided, almost to the day, with the arrest of Mr Freeman on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. I scanned online reports for Mr Freeman’s stance on the matter, to find that he has denied the accusations and said that he will be rigorously defending himself.
As I surfed the web, I encountered Mr Loophole’s views on the morality of his work. He cheerfully admits that he clears clients on technicalities, and cites the quintessential lawyers’ line on defending the indefensible: "I am a lawyer and my job is to give my clients the best defence I can. That is the job of every defence lawyer. I can't pick and choose who I defend based on my opinion; that would mean I was judging them, and that would be a dereliction of my duty." He is on the record as saying that while morally he cannot square his work with his conscience, "ethically, I can".
It struck me then that I could not go to Mr Loophole for help. For me, the standard lawyers’ line creates a culture in which serial drink-drivers may be acquitted, until the day that, finally, they crash and kill someone and find themselves beyond "technicalities". This line means that "technicalities" ensure that drivers who habitually speed – of which I appear, regrettably, to be one – can stay on the roads longer than the law has decreed. The lawyers’ line is that which enables rapists and murderers "to put the prosecution to proof" rather than force a man to face the consequences of his actions.
Mr Loophole may well be innocent of the accusations currently being investigated by Gwent Police, but, rather oddly, I have something in common with a person of far greater fragrance than I, the estimable Caprice. Just as Ms Bourret admitted drink-driving (though blamed her condition on precription drugs she was taking), I too am guilty, of speeding, at least. It’s time to put my hands up, reply to the summons – and slow down.