Linda Lusardi has fought her corner, claiming she was right to ring the emergency services to request permission to use the hard shoulder on a motorway.

The 50-year-old actress said she was running late for her pantomime performance and wanted the show to go on. But police described her call as ‘ridiculous’.

Lusardi told the Daily Mirror: “I phoned 999 because I was brought up to believe that was the number to call if you needed police assistance. The call wasn’t because I was going to be late, it was because the matinee would have been cancelled if we had carried on as we were going.

“I didn’t want to disappoint a thousand people who had come to see the show.”

Lusardi, who is playing the Wicked Queen in Snow White in High Wycombe, went on: “I phoned and the first thing I said when I called was that this was not an emergency, I am looking for traffic assistance.

“I asked if it was possible to use the hard shoulder so I don’t have to cancel a show that a lot of people have paid a lot of money to see.

“The guy was very helpful and said he would ring me back. He did call back and explained that I couldn’t use the hard shoulder, but that traffic was clear from junction 20. So I could call the theatre to tell them I would be an hour late but not to cancel, the show can go on.”

Hertfordshire Police used Lusardi’s actions to remind the public what the emergency services number is for. A spokesman said: “Being late for work is not a reason to call 999, contact the police or use emergency measures. Use of the hard shoulder is restricted for emergency service vehicles only.”

But Lusardi, who was unhappy that police made her call public, told listeners on BBC’s Radio 5 Live: “I thought they were there to help. I told them I wanted traffic police if possible, and that it was not an emergency. It was not an arrogant thing about being late for work.

“And I didn’t call the local police station because I didn’t think they could authorise me to go on the hard shoulder. All that I wanted to do was to go on the hard shoulder for two junctions.”

In the end the performance at the Swan Theatre in High Wycombe, Bucks, went ahead half an hour late.

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