A nursery nurse who was stopped because she was holding an apple while driving was fined today following a prosecution which her solicitor described as ''nonsensical''.

He also criticised Northumbria Police and the Crown Prosecution Service for ordering aerial photographs, a video shot from the force aircraft and a video recording from a police car be produced for the trial which lasted more than two-and-a-half hours.

But South Tyneside Magistrates ruled that Sarah McCaffery, 23, of Blackpool Parade, Hebburn, was not in proper control of her Ford Ka as she negotiated a left hand turn with an apple in her right hand.

She was fined £60 and ordered to pay £100 costs at the 10th court hearing into the case which started at 8.20am on December 4 2003 when she was pulled over by traffic officer Pc Lee Butler in Monkton Lane Hebburn.

The officer, who has 10 years' experience, told the court he was sat in his stationary patrol car when he saw a woman driving with her right hand by her face and believed she may be using a mobile phone.

He stopped her and discovered she was holding an apple. He then issued her with a £30 fixed penalty ticket. He said the defendant did not say anything at the time.

Geoffrey Forrester, defending, said the road was dry, there was no traffic or pedestrians around and the manoeuvre into the junction was carried out ''perfectly''.

He said Miss McCaffery was of ''impeccable character'' and he did not call her to give evidence.

The magistrates heard that when she had the ''temerity'' to challenge the prosecution in court, and there was some publicity surrounding the case, the police used its helicopter or aeroplane to film the scene from above, while a sergeant and a constable in a patrol car also made a video.

Mr Forrester told the bench: ''Nothing illustrates the nonsense of this case more than the resources that have been thrown at it.'' He said serious offences such as drug dealing, burglary or assault on children were not be afforded such attention.

''This is all about trying to crush her because she is the one who stood up and said 'this is silly','' the solicitor told the court.

''The police service and the CPS do not like to be told they are silly.''

Chairman of the bench Ken Buck said: ''We accept that there are times when you can drive with one hand, but, in holding an apple while negotiating a left hand turn, we consider you not to have been in full control.

''We are therefore satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that this case is proved.''

Chris Kay, prosecuting, said the cost of the case, not including the aerial photographs and video, was £425.

The court was told the aircraft was not sent specifically to film the scene as it was a ''non-urgent'' duty, but that it had been done in the course of another job in the area.

Miss McCaffery declined to comment afterwards.

Northumbria Police today defended the decision to film the scene from its aircraft and insisted it will take action against anyone eating or drinking while driving.

A force spokesman said: ''As the defendant chose for the matter to go to a court trial rather than accept a fixed penalty notice, we were obliged to gather all appropriate evidence to present our case.

''Costs do not have a bearing on any decision to prosecute.

''Action will be taken against people seen eating, drinking, using mobile phones or doing any other activity where their driving is affected.

''It is vital that motorists are in proper control of their vehicles at all times and are fully concentrating on their driving.

''The magistrates supported this and found the defendant guilty.''