A SOLDIER caught driving at 143mph has been allowed to keep his licence so he can train for a life-saving role in Afghanistan.

Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer Kameron Edmondson admitted going twice the speed limit on the M40 in his Ford Focus ST, believing he was being persued by a Subaru Impreza.

He said did not realise it was an unmarked police car.

But the judge’s decision to spare Edmondson has caused outrage among road safety campaigners and politicians, one claiming his actions were “as lethal as a speeding bullet”.

Edmondson, from Blackburn, had originally been charged with dangerous driving in July last year, but he denied this when he appeared before Warwickshire Crown Court.

Instead he pleaded guilty to speeding.

The court heard the 20-year-old is about to embark on a tour of Afghanistan in mid June, where he will be carrying out repair work to British vehicles damaged by roadside bombs.

Judge Marten Coates was told if he kept his licence, Edmondson’s training for Afghanistan would begin immeadiately.

Adam Western, defending, said: “He is described as a vital asset because of the work he did during his last tour of duty in Iraq, clearing up the damage caused to British vehicles by improvised explosive devices.”

Judge Coates told Edmondson: “You richly deserve to be disqualified because of this appalling behaviour on the motorway, which is what I was going to do.

“But taking you off the road for 56 days means you would not be trained to do a job not many people want to do.

“It is a matter of balancing two different public interests, and the saving of lives must be the more important.

"I must allow you to remain in the role you do, which is essential for our armed forces.”

Edmondson was fined £300 and ordered to pay £80 costs and a £15 surcharge, and had six points endorsed on his licence.

Following the sentence, road safety charities hit out saying that the decision “sends out the wrong message”.

Ellen Booth, of Brake, said: “At 143mph, that really is a dangerous level of speed and shows a lack of responsibility and consideration for other people’s lives.

“Judges should be taking this type of offence very seriously, and we’re very concerned that he has taken the soldier’s circumstances into consideration.”

A spokesman for the RAC Foundation said: “The courts have a duty to ensure that those who break that law are all treated equally, or else, quite understandably, members of the public will ask, ‘If he got away with it, why can’t I?’”

For speeds in excess of 100 mph, it is usual that the punishment starts at disqualification as opposed to penalty points.

However, the decision is at the discretion of the court and in certain circumstances, a disqualification can be avoided.

Paul English, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Blackburn, said that Edmondson’s actions were “as lethal as a speeding bullet”.

He said: “The rule of law should be equal to all, full stop.

“There should be no exceptions. It doesn’t matter if he’s a soldier, if you break the law, you should suffer the consequences. This sets a very bad example.

Michael Law-Riding, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Blackburn, said: “If you are driving at 143mph, then you should be banned - it’s the law of the land, and everyone should obey.”

But Justice Secretary Jack Staw said that the judge had made the right decision.

He said: “It seems to me that the judge has shown appropriate mercy for someone risking his life for the rest of us.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, said: “We would not comment on a decision made by a judge.

"It would be innappropriate.”