A Shropshire police constable who reached speeds of up to 159mph while "familiarising himself" with a new patrol car was today cleared of dangerous driving and speeding after a magistrate criticised the decision to prosecute him.

District Judge Bruce Morgan, sitting at Ludlow Magistrates' Court, acquitted Pc Mark Milton of the charges after describing the 38-year-old as the "creme de la creme" of police drivers.

The court had heard that the officer, who is trained in advanced driving and the use of firearms, was recorded travelling at 159mph on the M54 near Telford, Shropshire, by an on-board video camera in the early hours of December 5, 2003.

Giving his verdicts, Mr Morgan said: "I can't help but see the irony that those that brought this prosecution are those very people who have purchased cars that go at this speed and paid for him (the defendant) to go to learn to drive at these speeds."

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The hit TV crime series CSI has prompted a 700 per cent increase in the number of students applying to study forensic science.

Dr Suki Phull, principal lecturer for a new forensic sciences course at Coventry University, said many students were quite shocked when they discovered what they would be doing on the three-year courses.

He said: "So many programmes like CSI have glamorised our job. The show makes people think it's just about going to crime scenes.

"When I explain to students what is actually involved on a forensics course on their first day, you can see their faces drop."

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A Midland Labour backbencher has criticised Tony Blair's education policy for allowing "religious crackpots" to run schools.

Wolverhampton MP Ken Purchase (Lab Wolverhampton North East) condemned proposals to invite businesses and religious groups to build new schools.

In one of the first debates in the Commons since the General Election, he said this would lead to lower standards and harm Midland manufacturers, who needed a skilled workforce.

The collapse of MG Rover had highlighted the need to help manufacturers, he said.

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A romantic garden created by the Earl of Leicester for Queen Elizabeth I is to be restored at the largest ruined castle in England.

English Heritage said the ambitious scheme to recreate the lost garden at Kenilworth Castle, in Warwickshire, was at the heart of a multi-faceted development and restoration programme.

Kenilworth Castle has been the setting for pageantry, romance and political intrigue for over eight centuries and attracts 95,000 visitors each year.

Stunning archaeological evidence discovered last year beneath the existing 1970s garden has prompted English Heritage experts to believe that a more accurate representation of the garden that Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, arduously created in 1575 to impress Queen Elizabeth I on her 19-day visit, can be reconstructed.

See Thursday's Post for more on these stories. Also:

It's the film the world has been waiting for - Revenge of the Sith, which marks the sixth and final film in the blockbusting Star Wars sci-fi series.

Thursday's Post features interviews with director George Lucas and star Hayden Christensen plus a review of the movie.