Three British men who took part in a Cannonball-style car race through Switzerland in June have received suspended sentences of between 13 and 14 months. They were released from prison this week, but could face further trouble if they commit another offence in Switzerland within two years.
The trio were arrested by Zurich police on June 4 at 5.15pm after being caught speeding whilst taking part in the Cannon Run race from Maidstone in England to Monaco.
Driving high-performance Nissan GTR sports cars, investigations showed that they reached speeds of up to 177 kilometres per hour on the A4 motorway starting at Islisbergtunnel near Wettswil, the Zurich attorney general’s office said in a statement external linkon Tuesday. The speed limit of Swiss motorways is 120kmph.
Their ‘high-risk driving’ was carried out in heavy Whit Sunday traffic, creating an increased danger of collisions, injuries or deaths and is considered a serious traffic violation, the statement added.
Under a shortened procedure, the prosecutor’s office and the accused have agreed to a suspended sentence of between 13-14 months, the statement said. Their impounded vehicles will be returned to the drivers, but they must find someone else to drive them out of Switzerland, the prosecutor said.
The trio had been held behind bars for the duration of the legal procedure (three months). The delay in bringing them to trial was attributed to the time needed for investigators to conduct technical examinations of the vehicles to determine how fast they had been driven whilst in Switzerland.
Informal motor rallies, mainly through the United States and Europe, were inspired by a string of movies in the 1970s and 1980s, including the Gumball Rally and Cannonball Run, starring such luminaries as Burt Reynolds and Roger Moore.
‘Fantastic Motoring News!!’
On September 3, the Cannon Run Facebook siteexternal link posted a message celebrating the ‘Fantastic Motoring News!!’.
“The GTR Boys Dave, Julian & Ade have been released from Swiss custody and are now at home with their vehicles. A team of close friends and family went out to Switzerland to bring the lads and the cars back home!!,” it declared.
In an earlier message, the Cannon Run organisers said the trio had been accused of only minor traffic offences, including “a very small speeding issue which was only a little over”.
The detention of the three men had drawn critical responses on the Cannon Run facebook site.
“So wrong on so many levels as these men are also family men that have children and wives at home waiting for answers that they aren't getting from the Swiss. It's disgusting how they have been treated,” read another.
Laws of the road
Zurich prosecutor Jürg Boll denied that the sentences were intended to send a specific message out to future Cannon Run participants. But in general "anyone driving in Switzerland must respect the laws of the road and speed limits," he told swissinfo.ch.
The maximum speed limit in Switzerland is 120 kmph and motorists caught speeding usually face fines of up to CHF260 (£208 or $272) if there are no aggravating factors such as driving at very high speeds in built up areas or under the influence of alcohol.
Switzerland beefed up punishments for dangerous driving when it introduced a road safety programme known as Via Sicura in 2013. Road deaths have declined 34% since 2010, according to official statistics, but the government recently said it would consider toning down some parts of the regulations that are seen by some as draconian.
The could include dropping minimum fixed prison sentences for traffic crimes and lowering to six months the minimum period for suspending a driving licence.
Judges should also have more discretion in the case of evaluating traffic offence cases, the government said last month.