Segway rider must wait for judge's ruling

A MAN who could be the first person in the country to be convicted of riding a Segway scooter on the pavement in a landmark test case will have to wait until Tuesday to discover his fate.

Phillip Coates, aged 51, of Park Avenue, Cudworth, Barnsley, is maintaining a not guilty plea towards the two charges against him.

Following a trial yesterday district judge Michael Rosenberg said he would have to take some time before he came to a decision, adding: "This is the first prosecution of its kind in the country for an alleged offence of this nature, and it is a legal issue for both prosecution and defence which could at the end of the day be taken further. It is in essence a test case."

Mr Coates is charged with driving or riding a motor vehicle on a pavement or causeway and driving or riding an unlicensed motor vehicle on the road.

His solicitor, Victoria Molloy, explained after the short hearing that the case hangs on a matter of law and "whether a Segway can be classified as a motor vehicle".

She added their defence is the scooter is not a motor vehicle and there is no definition of a case like it to refer back to.

Mr Coates was charged after an inquiry assistant at a local police station spotted him on Pontefract Road, Lundwood, last February.

The former factory worker was spotted again on the machine by the same man, Raymond Flar, when he was at the police station in March to leave a complaint about Mr Flar's initial statement. As Mr Flar watched out his office window he spotted Mr Coates get on the Segway, manoeuvre it between two parked cars, and ride away.

In his statement, read out at Barnsley Magistrates' Court, Mr Flar said: "Although there were no other pedestrians I consider the use of the machine to be dangerous. I thought any pedestrians would have to step off the pavement on to the road."

Mr Coates told police: "I believe Segways are legal - many MPs use them in London."

He was supported by former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik, a Segway campaigner for two-and-a-half years, at a previous hearing.

The distinctive scooters are all the rage in America and Mr Coates said previously he bought one for 5,000 after becoming hooked on them on holiday in Florida.

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