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Millionaire escapes driving ban as it would ‘cause him hardship’

The millionaire owner of the so-called Harrods of the north has escaped a driving ban after persuading a court it would cause him exceptional hardship.

Retailer Mark Birkbeck, 62, was allowed to stay on the road despite now having 14 points on his licence, and admitting he deserved to be banned.

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Birkbeck – who built and owns House of Bruar – claimed he would be forced to sack staff at the shopping complex if he was banned from the road.

He told Perth Justice of the Peace Court that no-one else in the company was capable of buying the goods on display at the upmarket shopping centre on the A9 near Blair Atholl.

But anti-speeding campaigners have reacted to the sentence with fury.

Chairwoman of Scotland’s Campaign against Irresponsible Driving (SCID), Joyce Beasley, said: “For a driver who already has 10 points on his licence to receive a further four points and not be disqualified from driving is an insult to all those bereaved or seriously injured as a result of speeding drivers.

“To use the excuse of exceptional hardship is unacceptable particularly when the accused is a multimillionaire with the means to employ a chauffeur.”

Ellen Booth, campaigns officer for Brake, said: “We urge judges to prioritise the safety of the public and issue a driving ban to stop these drivers before the worst happens and their unsafe driving kills someone.”

The retailer was told he would be allowed to stay on the road despite crossing the 12-point threshold that normally leads to a mandatory six-month ban from the road. He escaped a ban after telling Justice of the Peace Eve Forrest that he lived in a remote house and would not be in a position to hire a chauffeur.

Birkbeck, of Grantown-on-Spey, Morayshire, admitted speeding at 90mph on the M90 motorway between Inverkeithing and Perth on October 6.

He was driving a £70,000, 3.6 litre Range Rover Vogue TDV8 at 11.30 on a Wednesday morning when he was detected by police, the court heard.

Solicitor David McKie, defending, said: “He is the chairman of House of Bruar, which employs 240 people. In addition there is the business of Johnstons of Elgin, for which House of Bruar is a principal customer.

“If he is disqualified for six months there will be a large number of redundancies at House of Bruar. As chairman he is not passive, but active.

“He started the business from scratch and built it from nothing. His role is as selector and buyer of products. He chooses what goes on the shop floor.

“He travels extensively, not just in the UK, but abroad, and regularly goes to trade shows. Every aspect of the business is selected by Mr Birkbeck. His son Patrick is managing director.”

Patrick Birkbeck wrote to the court to plead for his father to be allowed to stay on the road and claimed that a six-month ban would result in job losses.

“There is no other business in Scotland like House of Bruar. It creates employment in the area. He travels 50,000 miles a year and if he was not allowed to do that then the products would simply not be there to meet customer demand.”

Mr McKie said his client would need to hire two or three chauffeurs, who would have to live with him for six months, because of the hours he keeps.

“He would have no option but to let people go – breadwinners who live in the local area.

“He does not think he deserves to retain his driving licence ... If a ban was restricted to one month he could sustain staff numbers at current levels.”

However, despite being told Birkbeck had two speeding convictions in the last three years, and ten live points on his licence, he was not disqualified.

Mrs Forrest imposed four penalty points but said that she would not ban him despite passing through the totting up threshold. She fined him £300.

“In my view,” she told him, “there’s signs of reflected hardship to employees of the business.”

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