Trucker watched Errol Flynn movie as he drove
By David Williams, Evening Standard Motoring Editor 07.06.04
A Spanish lorry driver who tackled the rush-hour on the M1 while enjoying a Western in his cab was banned from Britain's roads.
Manuel Cuenca, 50, almost sparked a pile-up as he drove through the early evening traffic with a portable TV and video flickering next to him.
He was soaking up a dubbed version of the Errol Flynn classic They Died With Their Boots On when he ran another juggernaut off the road.
Stunned fellow trucker Brian Jackson had just looked into Cuenca's passing cab in disbelief when the Spaniard suddenly cut in front of him.
He had to veer onto the hard shoulder on a packed stretch of the motorway near junction 23a at Kegworth to avoid a smash.
Leicester Crown Court heard how Cuenca was heading southbound on 25 October last year when he risked causing mayhem.
Mr Jackson was climbing an incline in the slow lane at the wheel of his fullyladen, 44-tonne lorry when he spotted Cuenca's red Renault HGV in his mirror.
Jonathan Eley, prosecuting, said: “There seemed to be flashing lights coming from the cab. As it came closer to overtake, and the cabs drew parallel, he saw the light was coming from a 14-inch TV mounted on the dashboard.
“The lorry then passed him and began to pull into lane one – forcing Mr Jackson to swerve onto the hard shoulder to avoid a collision.”
Because the hard shoulder on that stretch of the motorway was triple width, Mr Jackson was able to regain control and rejoin the slow lane.
He immediately contacted police, who caught up with Cuenca at junction 21a near Fosse Park, Leicester – with the movie still running. “They could see images of the film reflecting in Mr Cuenca's glasses,” Mr Eley said.
Cuenca – driving “very close” to the lorry in front – was ordered to pull over and was arrested. He said he was only listening to the film's soundtrack – a claim repeated in court by his lawyer, James Varley.
The case, Mr Varley said, had been “a dreadful financial hindrance and a matter of personal shame” to his client.
Cuenca admitted a charge of dangerous driving and was banned from holding or obtaining a licence in Britain for the next 12 months.
Judge Peter Morrell said it was plain the prosecution could not prove “beyond all reasonable doubt” that Cuenca had been watching the television, so his ban was simply for pulling in too soon after overtaking. If it could have been shown he was concentrating on the Western his sentence would have been “far less lenient”.
Cuenca, from Barcelona, has been sacked since the incident and is now taking German haulage firm Norbert Dentressangle to an industrial tribunal in Spain.
He could still be allowed to drive elsewhere in Europe if the Spanish authorities do not follow up today's sentence.
In February the father-of-one was fined £3,000 after entering Britain with four asylum-seekers in his HGV.