Britain’s wealthiest MP who spoke out against using phones behind the wheel has been banned from the road for six months after he was caught texting while driving his BMW.
Magistrates’ heard the Newbury MP continued to use his mobile after the light turned green and he moved five to seven metres forward.
Benyon, a former parliamentary under secretary of state for the Department of Environment, claimed he earns £3,987 a month in a ‘means form’ submitted to the court.
As well as the ban, the Conservative MP was ordered to pay £421 including a fine, prosecution costs and a victim surcharge.
Beata Murphy, prosecuting, said: “The police officer was travelling southbound on a pedal cycle on the Upper Road by Islington Green. The flow of traffic was extremely slow due to road works.
As he cycled slowly, he noticed that the driver of a black BMW appeared to be on a mobile phone. He had a smart phone on his lap and was looking down not at the road.
He appeared to be texting and manipulating the glass screen using his thumb.
When the traffic light went green, the former minister was said to have carried on looking at the phone and manipulating the screen with his hand.
He was pulled over and admitted to using the phone saying: I thought I was allowed to use it when I’m not moving.
Magistrates’ heard Benyon already has six points on his licence, three from a speeding offence in October 2014, and three for another speeding offence from September 2015.
The number of points that can be issue for using a phone while driving were increased from three to six points in March this year.
Magistrates’ ordered Benyon be issued six, which put him over the maximum number of twelve points allowed before a driver is disqualified.
Thomas Daniel, defending, pleaded with the bench to use its discretionary powers to hand Benyon a shorter disqualification period.
Mr Daniel said that if the offence had taken place six weeks prior, Benyon would have been automatically issued three points and would not be over the point limit under the ‘totting up’ system.
He said: The court of course still do have a discretion to pass a sentence on any matter, grave or not. You have a discretion to pass a short discretionary ban.
Twelve points has the effect of bringing about a disqualification and wipes the licence clean.
From the witness statement the officer said he was sympathetic to Mr Benyon’s position to sending that text message. The reason is because the road was completely gridlocked.
He would have exercised his own discretion. He was sympathetic to drivers as meetings would be missed, appointments would not be kept.
This is the lowest end of this type of offence. He moved only five to seven meters. And that is at about walking pace.
Chair of the bench Nigel Wildish said: Mr Benyon pleaded guilty at the first opportunity entering in his car as he was talking to the police officer to the effect of using his mobile phone.
With regard to disqualification, we have heard on Mr Benyon’s behalf that he should suffer a short term disqualification as oppose to points on the totter.
He should receive the six points as Parliament intended to be in effect as of 6 March and which anyone else would, which makes him a totter with a total of 12 points.
Having become a totter he will be disqualified for a period of six months and that will reduce his points back to zero.
Benyon lives on a sprawling 14,000 acre estate in a Grade II listed mansion in Reading and is said to be worth over £100million, making him the wealthiest MP in the country.
He had previously spoken out against people using phones while driving after a deadly crash in his constituency last year.
The property magnate has previously been in the press over allegations of increasing rents at an affordable housing estate in Hackney, purchased by his family firm in 2014.
He was also accused of nepotism after hiring his sister as a part-time senior researcher in his office in January this year, just before the parliamentary ban came into force.
Benyon, of Englefield House, Reading, admitted one count of using a handheld mobile phone while driving.
He was fined £306 and ordered to pay the victim surcharge of £30 and costs of £85, totalling £421.