Newcastle United star Hatem Ben Arfa has been given a six-month driving ban after twice failing to report who was at the wheel of his speeding Mercedes.
The French international midfielder was also ordered to pay £2,680 by magistrates at Bedlington yesterday after pleading guilty to two charges of failing to give driver details.
The court heard a Mercedes registered to the 26-year-old, who lives at Darras Road, Ponteland, was caught on camera exceeding the 30mph speed limit at the B6318 Great North Road at the bottom of Gosforth High Street on November 5, then again on the 20th of the month, last year.
Following both offences, Ben Arfa was sent letters asking him to report who had been driving at the time within 28 days.
The first letter, sent on November 9, yielded no reply and so a warning was sent on December 21.
No reply was received, Mid and South East Northumberland magistrates heard.
The second, sent on November 29, again yielded no reply and similarly a warning was sent on January 10.
The court was told a reply was eventually received at the end of February, “some months” later, along with a letter from United’s player liaison team giving an explanation for the delay.
Magistrates heard Ben Arfa, assisted by an interpreter throughout the case, had been recuperating in France when the letters were sent.
Prosecutor Neil Fodor said: “Whatever procedures Mr Ben Arfa has in place for being abroad or where English was not his first language, clearly it was his responsibility to make sure those procedures worked.
“And clearly on these occasions they did not.”
Defending, barrister Michelle Brown told the court there had been one “inadvertent” failure to respond to a notice.
Of the second, she added: “There was a genuine effort to comply that was not perfect and it did not achieve what was required in law.”
Ms Brown continued: “I am asked to put forward an apology on Mr Ben Arfa’s behalf.”
Magistrates were then told: “There are a number of factors, complex factors, as to why on this occasion the system failed.
“Mr Ben Arfa is aware that he will have to strengthen his system in future if he is not to be found in court again, whether he is right or not.”
Ms Brown said there was a “combination of factors” for the failure and that Ben Arfa, absent from the squad for United’s trip to Swansea on Wednesday night, “simply did not go through that necessary chain.”
She confirmed the midfielder, accompanied in court by a team of advisors, some French speaking, had been in his home country over the winter months recuperating, although he had returned to Tyneside for one United match just before Christmas.
The barrister added: “This is a case where there were genuine efforts to comply with the second notice.
“As to why the first notice was not responded to, he is very much at a loss.
“He very much falls on his sword and I hope the court accepts his genuine apologies. He accepts these two offences today and he knows the system needs to be more robust.”
Magistrates gave Ben Arfa six points for each offence, with the 12 points resulting in a six-month ban.
He was fined £900 for each and ordered to pay £700 costs and a £180 victim surcharge.
Ben Arfa had originally pleaded not guilty to four charges but the other two were withdrawn after he pleaded guilty to two.